CHESTERTOWN - About six months since the Mike Huckabee Show thrust the Stephenson family's bailout of log home manufacturer Lincoln Logs Ltd. in the national spotlight, company officials say Lincoln Logs is moving forward in redeveloping its business.
"Each month, we've been getting more inquiries, seeing more activity, and making more sales and deliveries," Lincoln Logs sales manager Bob Olden said Friday.
During the height of the financial collapse and the implosion nationally of the housing industry, the Stephenson family bought the assets of Lincoln Logs for $2.5 million in a bankruptcy auction. Soon after this November 2008 transaction, they put 25 or so company employees back to work.
Lincoln Logs had gone bankrupt under former owners that had recently launched an ill-timed, overly aggressive and underfunded expansion. When they filed for bankruptcy, they had a backlog of millions of dollars of pending orders on their books.
Since then, the resurrected firm has salvaged and fulfilled the pending orders and are actively seeking new business, Olden said.
"We've been busy following through with customers' orders, meeting their needs in every way we can," he said.
The firm is also concentrating on generating new business, Olden said. About a month ago, Lincoln Logs introduced a new selection of upscale models in their High Peaks Designer Series.
The series had its debut on the firm's website, which is now getting 10,000 hits per week after it was updated and redesigned, he said.
The national housing industry downswing, which last year prompted a 36 percent decline in sales for the former Lincoln Logs, is now showing signs of recovery, Olden said.
"We had a good September, and we think October is going to be phenomenal," he said. "The housing industry has hit bottom, and is now climbing back up."
At the height of prevailing fears of national economic collapse, the Huckabee show portrayed the Lincoln Logs bailout as a prime example of how private enterprise, with strong community support, could be successful at providing jobs without a government bailout.
The show's millions of viewers nationwide saw local community leaders talk about Lincoln Logs and its business, and the vital jobs it provided in the region.
Lincoln Logs Vice President Erin Stephenson Brothers said Friday the Huckabee Show went beyond immediately stimulating interest in log home purchases and potential dealerships for Lincoln Logs.
"Most of all it had a positive impact on people's perception," she said. "Viewers across the nation saw us as a family-owned business, and people look up to that with all that's going on in the U.S. right now. It also spurred interest and confidence among potential dealers."
Company officials have said that the common ownership of Stephenson Lumber and Lincoln Logs provides substantial synergies, including design capabilities, and their ability to supply each other materials from extensive inventories at wholesale.
The firm is now seeking to expand its roster of dealerships, particularly in the northeastern U.S., from Tupper Lake to Cape Cod to New Hampshire, Maine and South Carolina, Olden said.
Lincoln Logs employees take pride in the customer service they provide, he said, noting that the firm hosts seminars every six weeks for prospective homeowners. Held Saturday mornings, they tackle topics including design, financing and construction of log homes.
The next such session in from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday Sept. 26.
"Our passion to satisfy customers is so important to our success," Olden said. "We help design and follow through with clients as if it is our own home."