Brian and Nichole Newton return full time to company they started nearly 4 years ago
NEWTON, N.C. — Industry veterans Brian and Nichole Newton have returned full time to The Hickory Oak, the company they started in 2020 as part of a plan moving forward to grow the business with designers and retailers alike.
They also have parted ways with Newton Coley, an upholstery manufacturer that Brian Newton started with upholstery manufacturing veteran Bill Coley around the spring of 2021. This move now allows them the chance to focus exclusively on their own custom upholstery operation.
When Brian, chief executive officer, and Nichole, lead product designer, started The Hickory Oak in 2020, it was during a period of high demand and looming disruption that caused an influx of orders from companies such as Vanguard, Lee Industries and Bernhardt, as well as Ballard Designs and Mitchell Gold.
Yet, as that business has shrunk by an estimated 90% from the height of the pandemic, the company is now focused on designers and retailers large and small alike seeking not only the quality from a domestic producer like The Hickory Oak, but also a company that offers true customization in both frame sizes, fabrics and leathers.
The company currently has about 10 workers that produce the line in its 15,000-square-foot operation in Newton. While it is still open to doing some contract business, the goal is to build a range of stationary upholstered product under its own brand, with pieces shipped in three to six weeks from the time of order.
Today, the line features a wide range of sofas, sectionals, loveseats, ottomans and chairs found in 35 individual groups — as well as pillows and headboards. These are currently available in about 20 fabrics — half of which are performance fabrics — and seven leather options. The company also makes the line available in COM and offers several wood finishes for legs and different cushion types for the seating.
Prices lean toward the upper end of the category, with sofas retailing from $4,795 to $5,700 and sectionals retailing from $7,000 to $9,000. Headboards and bed frames retail from $1,200 to $3,900 and chairs retail from $1,200 to $3,500.
At this stage in the company’s history, the push is to offer its wide selection of frames and options to the design trade and retail marketplace, not just OEM customers.
“We do some private-label work for companies that need that work done, but we’ve really created our own brand — we’re an American, custom handmade furniture company,” Brian Newton told Home News Now. “And when I say we are custom, we are truly a custom furniture company. We’ve developed a platform where if a designer wanted to create their own piece of furniture, and they have just drawn a sketch, you would be able to download that picture to our platform and fill in all the dimensions that you would want and then we would bring that sofa to life — just from a sketch.”
With the closing of several well-known upholstery resources in the past 14 months, including Mitchell Gold at the upper end and Lane, United and Klaussner in the middle, Newton believes there are plenty of voids to fill for both retailers and designers alike, making the timing right for his company to capture some of that opportunity.
“Because our furniture is very well built, it’s quality furniture that can compete with those companies,” he said of the upper-middle to upper-end segment of the business in particular. “I feel like there’s an opportunity for us to be on that same playing field.”
And because of the company’s low overhead, he said, The Hickory Oak also can compete from a pricing standpoint.
Finally, with the company’s emphasis on custom product, the line will not be mass produced, which Newton said distinguishes it from what he calls “fast furniture.”
“That’s the difference between us and a larger company,” he said of the mistakes that can occur in larger production runs ranging from a piece being produced in the wrong fabric to it being mixed in with other product on the wrong shipment. “We have 10 employees and we hope to grow, but we will never grow to the point where it’s fast furniture. That’s not my objective. We want to build a high-end piece of furniture, and when you get it, everything is going to be right on it. That includes the frames, the springs and the cushions we use. It’s going to be a luxurious piece of furniture and you will get it at a reasonable price.”
For more information on The Hickory Oak, visit www.thehickoryoak.com.