2003: The Year in Review

Horton Brasses has had a very good year. 2002 brought us many challenges, and I think we have weathered them well. In fact, these challenges have made us better at doing what we do.

We continue to grow and last year we maintained our projected 10% growth rate. We are spotting trends that are new and different, and these trends have forced us to make some major changes in how we handle your orders.

In the fall of 2002, we began to hear rumors that Chautaugua, a hardware supplier many large furniture companies used, had moved, been sold, or stopped production. Because I donâ??t pay a whole lot of attention to gossip, I never was sure exactly what happened. Horton Brasses began to get more and more calls from Chautauguaâ??s customers. Their big concern was did we have our hardware in stock? We do, our inventory is a source of pride and we always ship all orders (large or small) immediately. As a result, a very nice piece of the hardware business came our way.

One thing we learned is that some of Chautauguaâ??s customers favor the bright finish. As our orders increased, the demands on our buffing department increased. In June, we invested in a very large dust collector system, one that would handle up to 3 people working. Our previous unit handled one person comfortably and two for a few days at a time, but was really unsuitable for 2 or 3 people buffing day after day. Let me tell you, this new system just about sucks your socks off! Because its motors and collectors are outside, the buffing department is quieter; a nice serendipity.

Summer vacation came and went and as usual, the frantic pace when we reopened made us wonder why we closed at all. We returned to more than 400 web orders, as well as 200 fax and phone orders before we opened the door. Two shippers worked fulltime for 2-3 weeks to catch up, and it was hard, hard work. The entire company was involved in the backlog, but after 2 weeks, we were largely caught up. Our usual ship time is a day or two, so 2 weeks was a very long time for our regular customers.

Since the website is so very productive, we began to experience new demands on our shipping department. We discovered that we had a need for 2 shippers early each week. Monday morning the website delivers a tidy 60+ orders for us, and coupled with our regular business, Mary was swamped due to the hectic pace. We hired a new person, Jose, and his job is to check orders, answer the phone, ship, package large orders, and do as much pre-packing as possible. This has allowed Maryâ??s life to return to a saner pace and we are thrilled with the results. We should have done it sooner.

2003 also was a catalog year. This means that we were busy designing, photographing, and producing our 2004 catalog. It is a huge task and generally takes us about 6-9 months to do a catalog properly. I am very glad it lasts for 3 years! We printed in excess of 35,000 catalogs this run and we hope they will last until sometime in 2006.
Overall, I couldnâ??t be more delighted with the â??stateâ?? of Horton Brasses. We are busy, we are managing our growth with reasonable success and we are all very happy!

2002: The Year in Review

Well, Horton Brasses has had quite a year! It has been a busy year, our busiest ever. When June sales broke all records, we were thrilled. But then July broke June’s record, and September came close to beating both June and July! It looks like sales will have increased 15% over last year. We are very pleased.

We have made a number of capital purchases, as we do every year. We bought 2 large vibratory tumblers, one for our castings and the other for drying parts in our antiquing department. In the factory, we replaced two furnaces with a new combination heating and cooling system. Our factory is now air conditioned! And with our humid Connecticut summers, this is a welcome relief. New suspended ceilings with extra thick, accoustical tiles were installed in our shipping and buffing departments.

Late in August, our lives were changed forever because my husband (Toby) was in a motor vehicle accident, while traveling home from Alaska with his parents. The accident took place in North Dakota and Toby and his mom and dad all broke their backs. I spent part of August, all of September, and part of October in Minot, North Dakota; where all three had surgeries. Toby will be recovering for at least a year, but he is walking and is improving weekly. His mom and dad returned to their home in Florida the first of November and they are also walking and recovering. Toby’s dad is recovering very quickly, his mom has considerable pain but is walking again.

The Brassco worked right through this tragedy and everyone pulled together and did a wonderful job. Our son, Orion, joined us back in February, 2001; and worked hard to fill in the gaps created by our absence. He did a fabulous job, learned a great deal, and we are all very proud. One of the most incredible things about having a small company where everyone is important is seeing what happens during a true emergency. Every company hopes that never happens but in our case, it sure did. For most of the time I was gone, I was not able to help the Brassco because my attentions were elsewhere. That means that the folks back home made all the decisions and worked together to make joint decisions when necessary.

Only rarely was I consulted, and I had no worries or concerns about the Brassco because I knew the company was in the finest hands. Special thanks go to my office manager, Donna Haase and my shop foreman, Steve Hayward. Their willingness to agonize over the daily decisions, to work together to form consensus opinions with Orion, and their general leadership are things no other business enjoys–because they work for the Brassco. Without their guidance, Orion would have had a very hard time. I am truly the most fortunate of bosses.

2003 will bring a new catalog and we hope a whole lot less excitement!

Annual review of our charitable giving

As the year winds to a close, we did our annual review of charitable giving.

Topping the list are 4 organizations who receive in excess of $500.00 each. Doctors without Borders, an aid agency who provides health to some of the most war torn areas of the world.

The Society of American Period Furnituremakers is a fledgling organization that supports communication and skill development for furnituremakers. We are benefactors and this year, in addition to general fund gifts, we provided scholarship money for education.

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker agency and promotes peace throughout the world, working with refugee populations in trouble torn areas like Chechnya, Lebanon, Macedonia, Albania, and Pakistan.

And lastly we support the North Bennet Street School in Boston. North Bennet street teaches a wide range of crafts to adults. Many of our customers have emerged from North Bennet Street, and we are proud to support them.

Additionally, we support 2 orphanages, one here in Cromwell and another in Madagascar. When Toby and I travelled to Madagascar in 2001, we became familiar with an orphanage in Tana. They do wonderful work with homeless children and teach them trades in preparation for later life. The Children’s Home in Cromwell does the same thing. We are believers in teaching young people skills that will earn them a living, as not everyone is college bound.

We are big believers in the trades, and recognize that all children are not going to attend 4year colleges. And if everyone did, frankly, who would roof your house or repair your plumbing? Thaddeus Stevens School of Technology is a wonderful school that teaches many skills to its attendees. Pennsylvania kids can learn to become electricians, plumbers, house building, masons, and so forth. There is a fine cabinetmaking program ably taught by Stephen Latta and Rob Tobias. We are proud to provide all the hardware for their projects. If you know of a public school that teaches skills for life, and might need hardware, let me know. Maybe there is a way Horton Brasses can help their woodworking department.

Other charities in whom we believe include our local Habitat for Humanity, Spald House, a local developmental learning facility for disabled adults, CERF, an organization who provides short term relief to craftspeople of all types who are faced with catastrophe such as fire or major illness or injury, our local public radio station, WFCR in Amherst, MA, and Farm and Wilderness summer camps.

The Brassco offices recently underwent renovations

The Brassco recently completed renovations of our showroom and offices. These last improvements have been part of a longer running program that is nearly complete.

First we rewired the entire factory, and installed lots more lighting. After that, we expanded our shipping department with all new shelving units and bins. In buffing and in shipping, we installed dropped ceilings with extra thick accoustical tiles in buffing and put more lighting in each of those areas. After that, we needed more office space. So we took our very large showroom and converted it to office space. We built some walls and stripped 40 year old wall paper and painted and carpeted.

It now houses 5 people (me, Orion, Toby and the 2 Steves). We took my old office and made it into our showroom, and gave it a much needed facelift.