By Katy B. Olson
The news broke late last month: Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman, in business since 1953 and known for its handcrafted, U.S.-made goods, was purchased by Ira Glazer, the former CEO of Heritage Home Group. What will change at the company, which runs three showrooms and is found in 14 representing showrooms throughout the continent? Former owner Steve Mittman and Glazer sat down with EAL to discuss the deal—the terms of which have not been made public—and their new developments.
Mittman had begun searching for a buyer six months ago, he says, having decided “for personal and business reasons to relocate and spend most of my time in China. My hotel furniture manufacturing company, Lewis Mittman Hospitality, has grown considerably, to the extent that I realized I could not administrate both companies. Since I became engaged to marry here in China, it was obvious that our China-based company was the one that I had to keep hold of.”
“It’s all pretty simple,” Glazer concurs. “Steve Mittman was ready to focus more on the hospitality side, and had been focusing less on residential. He was looking for someone to potentially buy it. I’d been looking around for an appropriate transaction, and quite frankly, one of the two industries I’d spent most of my life in was furniture.” (The other industry is apparel; Glazer worked at Maidenform.) Glazer served as CEO of Heritage Home Group from its founding in 2013 through 2015, when Richard Lozyniak took the reins.
Glazer and Mittman met via a mutual friend. “Ira was the CEO of Heritage Home Group, under whose watch these iconic companies emerged from bankruptcy and began to thrive,” explains Mittman. “I knew this was the man who would cherish and grow EF+LM in these challenging times. And while he’s a finance professional, his oversight of these great furniture brands enthused within him the whole process of furniture building.”
How did Glazer’s earlier experience inform the purchase? He explains, “I got a taste of the furniture business. If I knew nothing of the furniture business, it’s unlikely I would’ve done this, but I got a pretty broad exposure there, from Hickory Chair down to a significant number [of dealer and lower-end businesses]. It gave me a taste of the good, the bad and the ugly of what’s important to be successful with a furniture company, big or small. That exposure led me to take a look at this business.”
The purchase was also appealing because “the company’s got a great name. It’s untarnished, which is unusual to say these days about brand names.” Glazer had been interested in a trade brand. “It’s got a reputation for great service, terrific quality, high-end styling. It was very attractive that it was a to-the-trade-only business, for me,” adding, “and that Steve is such a wonderful guy, easy to do business with, made it more attractive. He was someone I could really sit and talk to.”
Mittman will remain involved in the company, saying he’ll spend about 25 percent of his time in the U.S., working out of the brand’s D&D Building showroom in New York, and will remain at the company as the “resident ‘guru,’ continuing to advise and assist our great sales staff and workforce in North Carolina.”
Marshall Watson by EF+LM
Certain changes are on the horizon for the brand, both short- and long-term: “[We’d like to] see the brand bigger; it’s lost a little bit of traction,” says Glazer. “We’re looking at some of the things we think would be helpful in building some volume back. That’s top-line, priority No. 1.” Over the next few months, he continues, “We’ve got some work to do on the sales and marketing side, to review product lines and make sure they’re completely appropriate for the market we’re trying to address.”
As for long-term planning and potential acquisitions, Glazer says his “eyes and ears are open” for other “to-the-trade companies that [might] add value toward what EF+LM offers to the market.”