The last walls of the American Drew furniture plant in downtown North Wilkesboro came down this week, but salvaging of timbers, boards, metal and concrete (as gravel) from the old factory complex is continuing.
Under the Town of North Wilkesboro’s arrangement with Nelco Recycling and Aggregate Co., hired to tear down the old factory, town officials expect to do a little better than break even by getting part of the proceeds from Nelco’s sale of salvaged materials.
Pioneer Millworks of Farmington, N.Y., reported in a press release that it is utilizing wood from the original Drew Furniture portion of the factory complex for resale in new homes. Pioneer is remilling the wood as solid and engineered flooring, timber frames, custom cabinetry, furniture, fixtures and millwork.
As of October, Pioneer had acquired 70,000 board feet of timbers, 80,000 square feet of flooring and 80,000 square feet of sub-floor material.
A mixture of flooring species was salvaged, including oak, hickory and maple. Board widths vary from 2.25 inches to 3.25 inches while the original oak sub-floor includes 4 to 8-inch planks.
Conley Call, former North Wilkesboro mayor and fire chief, worked at America Drew for many years, said the Drew portion of the factory complex utilized concrete foundation and portions of the walls of the old Oak Furniture factory building when it was built in the 1950s. Call said the Oak Furniture factory, established in 1903, had burned down.
American Furniture Co. was organized in North Wilkesboro in 1927 by A.B. Johnston, J.R. Hix, R.W. Gwyn and W.B. Carlton. American and Oak Furniture were near each other but were competitors.
Drew Furniture Co. was started in 1955 by R.B. Johnston, A.B. Johnston, W.M. Coffey and Tom Story Jr. Its purpose was to manufacture a line of medium-priced bedroom furniture to complement the line being made by American Furniture Co. Drew’s production started in May 1956.
Drew and American were separate companies until they were bought by New York-based Green Stamp Co. in a cash transaction and merged in 1970.
American Drew became a subsidiary of La-Z-Boy two years ago when it acquired Greensboro-based LADD Inc., which had acquired American Drew earlier.
Call said employment at American Drew peaked in the late 1970s, when the company had a total payroll of 1,790 people at multiple facilities in North Wilkesboro. He it said included about 500 people in the American portion of the downtown manufacturing operation and about 400 in the Drew portion.
The American Drew furniture manufacturing complex in downtown North Wilkesboro closed in December 2001.