8-23-2021 – Fairfield celebrates 100 years in Caldwell

Posted on: August 23rd, 2021 by admin


August 23, 2021




Aug 20, 2021 Updated Aug 20, 2021


The Great Depression, the 2008 Great Recession and a pandemic that doesn’t seem to end are all on the list of what Fairfield Chair Company has weathered in its 100 years in Caldwell County.


The company’s longstanding presence and atmosphere have led to multiple generations working for Fairfield, said Michael Graybeal, manager of Fairfield Plant #2, as he made his rounds on the factory floor, encouraging banter.


“We like to keep it fun around here. We try to have a good time while still getting things done,” he said.


Many employees, such as Jody Baldwin, have familial ties to the factory.


“My favorite memory is being able to work with my grandma, Hallie Childress, who worked for Fairfield for over 30 years,” Baldwin said.


Fairfield Chair was established in 1921 by W.J. Lenoir, James Harper Beall and E.F. Allan in Lenoir. The company has two plants in Caldwell County and a showroom in High Point. The company is celebrating its centennial year.


Graybeal said the company has stood the test of time partly thanks to forward thinking and aggressive problem-solving skills. For instance, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, like many furniture companies it has had trouble getting its usual shipments of foam. Instead of letting orders pile up and laying off workers, Fairfield started ordering bulk quantities of filler material and cutting them within the warehouse, he said.


Graybeal said the idea that Fairfield is a family might be the other half of the equation for its success.


John Thomson, who works in the IT department, agreed.


“In the 14 years I have been at Fairfield, I have been a part of two major changes. In 2008, furniture was hit hard. We changed gears and flipped from retail to senior living and contracted overnight to keep our people working and never looked back. Then in 2020 we converted to doing PPE gowns and masks,” he said. “Always looking for ways to keep our Fairfield family working.”


The CEO of Fairfield, Dixon Mitchell, said the company’s family mentality goes beyond the factory doors and into the community, often helping various Caldwell County charities and school systems.


“The Beall family has always been so supportive of the community. Their homestead was built in 1825 so they were really a founding force in the community, making them good stewards in understanding the value of taking care of our people.” Dixon said.


Thomson’s fondest time with the company illustrates this notion.


“For the last 14 years Fairfield has allowed my wife, also a 20-year Fairfield employee, and I to raise money to buy gifts for Valmead and West Lenoir (elementary school students). I dress as Santa and deliver a gift to each child,” he said.


Retired plant manager Dennis Bell said community work was always part of the company’s focus during the 51 years he worked there.


“I feel Fairfield Chair has always been interested in being a help to Caldwell County. They have partnered with local schools and other charities. Our employees have always been willing to give and serve the community,” he said.


Reporter Candice Simmons can be reached at (828)610-8721

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