CHESTERTOWN - Dozens of people may be going back to work soon as one of the area's leading employers resumes operations, a company official said Thursday.
A number of former employees of the bankrupt log-home manufacturer Lincoln Logs Ltd. in Chestertown will likely be going back to work within several weeks, according to Larry Stephenson, one of the partners of a group that rescued the firm from insolvency.
"We've been talking to the former employees, and we'll have the majority of them re-hired by the end of next week," Stephenson said. "Everything looks good - so we may be back in operation March 9."
The enterprise will be ramping up its operations to fulfill pending orders, Stephenson said.
"We'll probably have 25 people working when we're back in production at the end of March," he said. "We're going to turn the company around."
Larry and Debbie Stephenson of Stephenson Lumber Co., along with several partners, made a successful bid several weeks ago for the New York assets of the Lincoln Logs, which filed for bankruptcy in September. The sale is expected to officially close this week.
Larry Stephenson said Lincoln Logs was a "good blend" with Stephenson, which has lumber and home improvement stores in Chestertown, Indian Lake and Speculator, as well as a truss manufacturing plant in Riverside.
Bankruptcy court records show the Stephensons and several backers submitted a $2.4 million bid for the basic assets of Lincoln Logs, which was once considered a leader nationally in log-home construction packages. The acquisition has been approved by the federal bankruptcy court in Albany.
The sale includes the model home on state Route 9 at the southern entrance of the Warrensburg hamlet.
In the early 1980s, Larry Stephenson was the financial executive of American Forest Products which had operated lumber and hardware stores that faced bankruptcy - and he acquired the chain, put his own name on the firm, expanded it, and made it financially successful.
For decades, the Stephenson Lumber chain has weathered prosperous times and downturns, while continuing to provide dozens of vital jobs. Area community leaders have said Stephenson Lumber has been an anchor economically for the communities it serves.
For more than three decades, Lincoln Logs had been a leading business in Chestertown and a pioneer nationally in designing and providing materials for log homes - with both stack-built and panelized exteriors. Lincoln Logs had been an industry leader that innovated efficient home construction materials and methods.
But in September, after suffering losses from the housing slump and battered economy, Lincoln Logs filed for bankruptcy.
Court papers indicated that Lincoln Logs had left at least $10 million in debt owed to at least 200 creditors. The documents, however, cited a sales backlog of $26.4 million, but customers had paid for only a fraction of the orders. As of September, the company had 48 employees, primarily working at its Chestertown headquarters and in a sawmill it owned in Saratoga County.
Larry Stephenson said Thursday that his company had retained about 65 percent of the backlog of orders, and was ready to fulfill them.
"We'll be bringing back more of the former employees as business builds back up," he said. "We're going to turn the company around."