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Published: 8/11/2001

Craft House to furlough 79, slash operations in Toledo

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Toledo's Craft House pioneered paint-by-number sets in the 1950s. The company said global competition and the current retail environment forced the local changes. Toledo's Craft House pioneered paint-by-number sets in the 1950s. The company said global competition and the current retail environment forced the local changes.
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A long-time Toledo firm that pioneered paint-by-number sets in the 1950s is ending production locally.

Craft House International will phase out assembly, warehouse, and distribution operations here by Nov. 30. Layoffs of 79 hourly and salaried workers employed by the firm at 328 North Westwood Ave. will begin Aug. 28.

That will leave Craft House, which once employed more than 600 here, with 25 employees at corporate offices at the Westwood Avenue site.

“Global competition and the current retail environment have made it necessary for Craft House to become a more efficient and lower-cost creator and marketer of its products,” the company said in a prepared statement.

Officials didn't reveal where the work would be shifted but said the firm would “seek partners with production, warehousing, and distribution expertise to handle those phased-out functions.”

The company does no manufacturing locally. Instead, Toledo workers assemble and package components made overseas, according to an official who spoke on the condition she not be identified.

There are no plans to move the firm's Toledo headquarters, the official said.

Craft House is best known for paint-by-number sets, but sells more than 300 activity toys, craft and hobby kits, and outdoor sport toys.

An industry expert said the action in Toledo could be linked to problems at several retail chains that carry the firm's craft products. Ames, Zany Brainy, and Jo Ann Fabrics & Crafts have experienced difficulties recently, said Michael Hartnett, publisher of Creative Leisure News in Tremont, Ill.

“The industry has been fairly flat and is going through difficult times,” he said.

Craft House co-owner Hendrick J. Hartong, Jr., was on vacation and unavailable for comment, according to employees at his Greenwich, Conn., office. Mr. Hartong, a former president of security giant Pittston Co., led an investment group that bought Craft House in 1997.

As a private company, Craft House doesn't release financial results. However, sales last year were listed at $25 million in Dun and Bradstreet Corp.'s Dun's Market Identifiers.

Worldwide employment is 350, according to the publication. The firm has offices in Massachusetts and Hong Kong.

The firm dates to 1956 when two brothers, John and A.M. Donofrio, bought a Detroit company, Palmer-Pann Corp. - inventor of paint-by-number kits - and moved it to Toledo.



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