EJ Lauren expands with Texas and California production

Increased manufacturing capacity aims to help fuel upholstery producer’s growth in Midwest and on the East Coast

FORT WORTH, Texas — Upholstery manufacturer EJ Lauren has recently expanded with a new plant here and plans to add another plant in its home state of California this year.

The company began production earlier this year in a new 120,000-square-foot plant in Fort Worth that currently employs about 80 workers. Expected to grow to 200 workers by year end, this facility will serve a growing customer base in the Midwest and East Coast that is now served by the company’s 110,000-square-foot production facility in Downey, California.

By year end, the California facility will be replaced by two new facilities six miles away in City of Industry that are a combined 240,000 square feet. They are expected to employ roughly 300 by the end of next year.

This is an image of one of the sectionals that EJ Lauren produces domestically

Tony Ocampo, the founder and former CEO of Golden Oaks, and former president of Klaussner Furniture of California, started EJ Lauren in 2009, about two years after leaving Klaussner.

Named after his three children, Elizabeth, Jonathan and Lauren, Ocampo created EJ Lauren as a special order business that could be competitive as a domestic producer.

Now some 13 years later, the company is the midst of its largest expansion, with two new facilities that can serve growing segments of the market.

“We moved to Texas because we have a lot of customers that wanted to buy EJ Lauren product,” Ocampo told Home News Now, of the growing customer base in the Midwest and on the East Coast. “We just didn’t have the capacity to add (in our existing plants) so we added Texas to be able to service our Midwest and East Coast business.”

And in the process of moving closer to those customers, Ocampo said, the company also is saving them freight costs.

“Which has become a big problem for a lot of people,” he added. “The cost of freight is huge, and so after looking at everything, we thought Texas was a good place to be.”

When it nears full employment, the Texas facility could be even bigger than the current California plant,  which now employs about 250 upholsterers, seamstresses, frame builders, foam and fabric cutters and shipping and administrative personnel.

“We have the biggest part of the population in the Midwest, East Coast and South, bigger than you do on the West Coast, so by default, you are going to do more business there,” Ocampo said.

The Texas market in particular has been quite strong, said Tammy Hein, executive vice president, sales and merchandising, noting that EJ Lauren already had a strong customer base there before opening a plant.

“We have served customers there for quite a while,” she said. “Texas is a great market.”

By serving these and other customers, including some customers in California, the Texas plant also has helped reduce the workload of the California plant, thus helping sharpen overall lead times in the process.

At the height of the pandemic, for example, lead times were as high as 24 weeks, Ocampo said. Today they are closer to four to six weeks.

And while business has slowed to some extent in recent weeks from some customers, it is growing with others.

“Our business continues to grow, and we are picking up customers even from the West Coast that we couldn’t sell because we didn’t have the capacity,” Ocampo said. “By adding Fort Worth, it allows us to give more production space, lower lead times and add new customers that have been wanting to buy from EJ Lauren, not just during the pandemic, but prepandemic.”

Meanwhile, the new California facility, which will include two adjacent buildings  of about 100,000 and 140,000 square feet respectively, is being added to offer an expanded manufacturing footprint.

Like the current California facility and the new Texas plant, it will produce everything from sofas and loveseats to sectionals, accent seating and upholstered headboards. Noting that everything is custom made from a sold order, Ocampo and Hein said that sofas are currently targeted to retail from  $799 retail to about $2,999. Sectionals retail from $2,600 to $4,800.

The Texas facility is currently producing about 1,100 pieces a week, which is expected to rise to between 2,500 and 3,000 per week by the end of next year.

Meanwhile the new California facilities are expected to produce between 20 and 30% more than the current California plant.

“The most important thing is that it will give us more space, because currently we are very tight.” Ocampo said, noting that foam fabrication will be situated in the building next to the manufacturing plant. “We are completely out of space so we need room to breathe and room for the shipping and packaging and all the stuff that comes in. And it will give us additional capacity, which will be great and we will be able to fill all that in, but it also it will give us a more comfortable place to work in.”

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

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