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Overcoming adversity: three tales of disaster & rebirth.

Neither earthquake, nor rain, nor fire, could stop them. Three diverse companies -- a speaker manufacturer, a cabinetmaker and an office chair maker -- not only survived calamity, but quickly bounced back stronger than ever.

"Our business burned completely to the ground. A fire started at 9:30 a.m. in the paint booth, that unfortunately, connected the two buildings," says Jay "Dr. Fong" Wilfong, president of Shirley-Ind.-based Sound Systems Unlimited (No. 38).

The fire took place on a Friday, and by Monday morning, the employees began the cleanup stage. The only items that survived the blaze were 300 Dr. Fong nameplates. Spec sheets, fixtures and templates were all destroyed. Yet eight days after the fire, Sound Systems began shipping two of its 25 models.

"While we were attempting to rebuild, we literally operated out of an old barn. Luckily, the fire happened during the spring, so the heat was not a problem in our temporary setup," Wilfong says.

"We have persevered to not only stay in business, but grow. We expect 1993 to be over the $2 million mark," he adds.

It wasn't fire, but rain, that almost destroyed Coralville, Iowa-based Essany Cabinets (No. 69) this past spring. Lots and lots of rain, which led to the Mississippi River flooding.

"We were in 3-feet of water for five weeks," says president Kenton Earnest. "Most of our machinery sat in the water for two weeks until we finally got tired of waiting for the water to recede. We went wading in after it."

Most of the equipment was salvaged, and has since been restored. To ensure the company remains on the straight and narrow -- and dry -- path to success, Earnest says Essany is moving to a new facility, on higher ground.

Office Chairs (No. 100) would have settled for solid ground. Almost immediately after an earthquake leveled its Whittier, Calif., factory back in 1987, the company got back to work. The dirt was dusted off and undamaged machines were set up and running in what was left of the parking lot.

Within 2 1/2 months, Office Chairs relocated to Santa Fe Springs, Calif. Since then, Office Chairs has continued to grow in sales, helped in part, says owner Donald Simek, by the addition of several new chair lines and the elimination of slower selling styles.
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Title Annotation:Wood and Wood Products Fourth Annual Report; wood manufacturers recovering from effects of natural disasters
Publication:Wood & Wood Products
Date:Nov 1, 1993
Previous Article:Here's to the Wood 100!
Next Article:CNC router or point-to-point boring machine? You make the call.

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