Since the company’s inception, the administrators and employees of Kellex Seating’s Valdese division have worked together as a tight-knit family. President and Owner Chris Rice said he and friends Doug Fawcett and Charlie Rice got started two decades ago, and since then have maintained their original vision for the company.
“Our company literally started in a garage. We formed a partnership with Norwalk Furniture and its subsidiary, Hickory Hill Furniture, to supply the commercial markets,” said Rice. “Both factories were suffering from a lack of sales and work, and the partners came together to form a plan to create a new opportunity.”
In 2008, the three friends purchased the Valdese branch of Hickory Hill and all of its assets, despite a dismal economic forecast.
“We still felt there was a market for the talented craftsmanship of Burke County and formed a plan that would match the talent of our people and an approach that could not be sourced offshore,” said Rice. “In essence, we built a business model with the talent of our people that ensures their jobs will not be outsourced overseas. We had only 50 associates when our plant opened and our staff has since then tripled to 150 in Valdese — and it’s still expanding.”
The Valdese factory is a division of a larger corporation, which is headquartered in Ohio. Kellex builds more than 500 different styles of upholstered seating for the hospitality and assisted living markets. Each year in Burke County, the factory produces more than 50,000 pieces.
“We have two distinctive markets. We have a large customer base in the assisted living markets — this would include products specifically for our aging population,” said Rice. “We have an equally large clientele base in the national resort and vacation properties market.”
Rice said the company prides itself on the close relationship that its leadership maintains with their employees.
“We employ over 170 people, and we are a family with many last names,” he said. “Each of us is proud of our brand.”
Because the company’s leadership and its employees work closely to achieve their goals, Rice said Kellex has been able to provide a level of service that stands out from the crowd.
“Our brand is recognized by doing what other manufacturers simply cannot or are not willing to do from a service perspective,” said Rice. “We have earned the reputation that we can outperform domestic and foreign competitors. This sense of spirit is the culture of the company and the firm beliefs of our owners.”
The Kellex mission statement is “Make it here, make it happen.”
“We believe in American quality and in the American people,” he said. “We’re proud that our manufacturing is all based in the United States.”
The close-knit family of administrators and employees also works together to make a difference outside of the factory.
“Our focus in the community starts with utilizing as many local suppliers as possible,” he said. “By doing so, we are stimulating our local economy and the people working within our communities. We are also very active with local and national nonprofit organizations.”
Rice said that Kellex is proud of its history and will continue to work diligently to carry out its mission and values in Burke County as it grows and changes in the future.
“As a family business, we recognize the importance of not just our people, but all of the families in the area,” said Rice. “We are committed to ‘Make it here, make it happen’ in Burke.”