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From the archives: Hitchcock brand is reborn

It’s been five years since Rick Swenson and Gary Hath revived the historic Hitchcock Chair Co. In a profile from the February 2012 issue, the business partners were less than a year into their new venture and hoping for the best.

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“We’re currently gauging what we’re tooled up to do and what consumer demands are,” Swenson said in the article. “We’re building four chairs now out of 150 (designs) and we’re starting to feel out the market as to what we should build next. Some chairs are really good sellers and others aren’t.”

In January, Swenson reports the business is going well and he still gets compliments for keeping the brand alive.

“We still have people stop by who found out that we’re back in business. They thank us, reminisce about the old company and encourage us to go forward. It’s a little piece of New England history that people are glad is still around,” Swenson says.

Hitchcock furniture is often adorned with detailed stenciling.

Lamber Hitchcock started the business in 1818 and within a decade had a three-story factory in Riverton, Conn., which produced Sheraton-style unassembled chair kits for showrooms and wholesales accounts across the country.

The company went out of business in 1866, but was reestablished 82 years later by John Tarrant Kenney, owner of a shoe franchise at G. Fox & Co. in Hartford, Conn. It grew to produce 400 chairs per day before closing again in 2006.

In 2008, Swenson learned of a warehouse full of unfinished Hitchcock chair parts in Pennsylvania and purchased them. A few months later, he and Hath bought plans, stencils, customer lists and marketing materials along with the company name.

“We want to connect to the 1820s and the heritage of the company by keeping its traditional designs, but at the same time, reach out to the future and say ‘We’re not your grandmother’s Hitchcock.’ We want to have it both ways and think we can do it,” Swenson said in the 2012 feature.

Co-owners Rick and Nancy Swenson.

The company currently has 12 employees, plus a restoration and refinishing business.

“We’re shipping all over the country,” Swanson said in the recent interview. “If anything, right now we do more business outside of New England than in it.”

The original story is available at Search for “Hitchcock.”

This article originally appeared in the March 2016 issue.

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