BRANDON — Financially strapped Vermont Tubbs is being sold to a New Hampshire furniture company. But the future of the high-end furniture maker in Brandon with its 87 employees remains in question. BSF Transition LLC, an affiliate of Brownstreet Furniture of Whitefield, N.H., announced Wednesday that it is buying "certain assets" of Vermont Tubbs. In a statement, BSF Transition owners Kyle Tager, Adam Tager and Elwin Wright said Vermont Tubbs will continue to manufacture in the existing facility on Arnold District Road while they review future production plans. Kyle Tager said Wednesday that it's his hope Vermont Tubbs will remain in Brandon but he also cautioned that some serious hurdles need to be overcome. "There are lots of challenges currently with facility costs, energy costs, even local property taxes, which are certainly making it a challenge," Tager said. Unless those problems are resolved, he said it won't do the company any good to end up in the same financial predicament several years from now. "There are some challenges there but right now we're spending the next 90 days or so trying to gather as much information as we can about current production and about the various facility costs and trying to negotiate with some of the key players there," Tager said. If the Brandon location isn't deemed economically viable, he said one option is relocating to another location in the Rutland area or in Vermont. Another option is moving production to Whitefield in northern New Hampshire, which is about eight miles from the Vermont border. However, Tager added that the 75,000-square-foot Brownstreet production facility doesn't have the capacity or enough employees to add the Vermont Tubbs product line. He said Brownstreet employs 70 workers with 20 percent of the work force Vermont residents. Brownstreet Furniture manufactures traditional solid wood cherry, pine, maple and ash furniture while Vermont Tubbs produces a line of contemporary hardwood furniture. The Tager brothers acquired majority ownership in Brownstreet earlier this year from founding partner Wright. The Tagers also own Mystic Valley Traders, a Woburn, Mass., company that makes high-end, top-of-bed linens and home furnishings. Jon McNeill of Vermont Tubbs said in a statement that Brownstreet has a track record of success, "creating, managing and delivering compelling products. McNeill said he and the other Vermont Tubbs partners will continue to be involved until the sale is complete. Fred Musone, former co-owner of Vermont Tubbs, added that the company has "taken steps to ensure that employees will be paid and monies available for vendors by having Robert Wexler and William Ash of The Tron Group overseeing the process." The Tron Group is a Boston-based private equity firm that offers consulting services and investment capital to underperforming and financially troubled companies. Vermont Tubbs officials did not return calls Wednesday seeking comment. JoAnn Graffam of the Rutland Economic Development Corp. said she hopes the sale will allow the company to overcome its financial problems. "Hopefully for Tubbs this gives them the leverage they need to continue because they do produce a fabulous product and they're someone integral to the community there," Graffam said, "and we certainly want to see that continue." Graffam also noted, however, that the statement by the new owners on Vermont Tubbs' future in Brandon is "vague." With 87 employees, Vermont Tubbs has struggled over the years. In April, the company was awarded a $500,000 loan from the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development. Company officials said the loan was critical to help the company avoid going out of business. The company was also seeking $50,000 from the Rutland Economic Development Corp. and another $80,000 from the town of Brandon. In its loan application, the company said it was unable to fill a $300,000 order from Bloomingdale's because it had to pay suppliers and workers well before it collects from customers. Vermont Tubbs officials estimate the company contributes $6 million a year to the local economy. Brownstreet's Tager said he first became acquainted with Vermont Tubbs in the 1990s and then four years ago at a trade show helped "dress" Vermont Tubbs beds with his line of Mystic Valley Traders bed linens. According to its Web site, Brownstreet Furniture (www.brownstreet.com) began in 1950 in Norfolk, Conn., making furniture for other companies, universities and hotels. In 1967, the company relocated to an old factory on Brown Street in Whitefield. In the 1980s the company introduced its own high-quality pine collection. That was followed with a high-end oak collection and then in 1989 a cherry line of furniture. Contact Bruce Edwards at bruce.edwards@rutlandherald.com.

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