by Joan Tupponce
It’s not every day that a small, family-run company out of Galax teams up with one of the best known licensed brands in the country. That’s what Vaughan Furniture did when it began partnering with Kathy Ireland Worldwide, a design and marketing firm owned by former super model Kathy Ireland.
The company introduced Kathy Ireland Home from Vaughan Furniture in April at the High Point Market in North Carolina. The medium-price line features several of Ireland’s styles, ranging from island-inspired Aloha to traditional Americana.
It was a good move for the company, says CEO and President Taylor Vaughan. “Her brand, according to the research of Global License Magazine, is the 23rd most successful licensed brand in the United States. We will be manufacturing branded case goods to include bedroom and dining room furniture, youth bedroom and occasional tables for her from overseas.”
The partnership is a welcome development. In March, Vaughan closed the company’s Galax manufacturing plant, eliminating 250 jobs. It was the last of the company’s five manufacturing facilities to shutter its doors. After eight decades of making furniture, Vaughan decided it was time to contract with overseas manufacturers for all its products.
“Our industry was in a recession long before the country acknowledged the recession,” he explains. “Furniture prices have depressed over the last few years to meet the demands of consumers. We couldn’t meet the price by manufacturing domestically. Closing our plant was a true necessity to be able to compete in the marketplace.”
Vaughan Furniture’s headquarters and 450,000-square-foot distribution center remain in Galax where the company was founded in 1923 by Vaughan’s grandfather, Taylor G. Vaughan Sr. and his brother, Bunyan C. Vaughan. In 2008, Vaughan says, the company had sales of more than $25 million.
Vaughan loves the community atmosphere in Galax, especially during August when the Old Fiddler’s Convention gears up. “I really appreciate the gathering and the fellowship,” he says. The event attracts nearly 50,000 visitors and 2,000 competing musicians.
Another local event is the Leaf and String Festival in June, a celebration of artisans, music and literature. Streets are blocked off so visitors can browse through the 100-plus vendors selling arts and crafts.
A destination on Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail known as The Crooked Road, Galax is also home to Rex Theatre, famous for the Friday night “Blue Ridge Backroads Live” radio show.
The city’s economy
Galax, long active in furniture and textile manufacturing, has lost many of its plants during the last 10 years. Today, Twin County Regional Hospital ranks as the city’s largest employer with about 700 workers. Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. (not to be confused with Vaughan Furniture) is the largest industrial employer with about 500 employees. It plans to expand its manufacturing facility, adding 100 jobs.
Other companies located in Galax include Consolidated Glass & Mirror, a glass manufacturer, and Moog Components Group, part of Moog Inc., a supplier of aircraft and missile components.
Galax’s central business district features specialty shops, restaurants, banks and service providers. The commercial corridor along U.S. Route 58 also is home to shopping centers and restaurants.
Tourism is a main focus of the city’s economic development efforts. Galax hopes to expand eco-tourism along the New River Trail State Park where visitors can walk, bike and ride horses.
Where to eat
When he’s looking for a special night on the town, Taylor Vaughan heads to Cissy’s Food and Friends, an upscale restaurant in the downtown area that specializes in shrimp and grits. Other local favorites include Galax Smokehouse, known for its barbecue; the County Line Cafe, with down-home delicacies; and Tina’s Hub. It was featured in Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine for its “big, flaky, buttery biscuits.”
Where to stay
With a U.S. Route 58 location, Galax has its share of chain hotels. The newest is the Hampton Inn. For a more local experience, consider The Doctor’s Inn. The home, now a bed and breakfast, was built around 1913 and is listed on the Virginia Landmark Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The inn serves a full breakfast on fine china. Rooms feature such amenities as cashmere blankets and Egyptian cotton linens.