Luxury custom furniture manufacturer Marge Carson is closing its doors at the end of October after 75 years in business.
While several entities have expressed an interest in buying the company, Jim LaBarge, chief executive officer, said personal health challenges — combined with uncertainties in the economy — have “created obstacles to a potential acquisition.”
In order to focus on his health, LaBarge has closed the company’s production facilities in Tijuana, Mexico, where it has been manufacturing upholstery and case goods. Marge Carson is based in South El Monte, California.
LaBarge noted in a memo to customers that the closure will not allow the company to complete production of its backlog. It will be sending out cancellations for orders it cannot fulfill.
Where it started
This marks the end of a 75-year history of a company that for years was a go-to resource for custom luxury furniture.
The company was started in 1947 by interior designer Marjorie Reese Carson, and was later operated by her son and daughter-in-law, Bob and Carol Carson. With the exception of its ownership by Masco Corp. from 1987 to 1994, it has been primarily family owned.
LaBarge joined the company in 1994 from LaBarge Mirrors and purchased it from Masco in 1995. During the past 25 years, it has expanded from its roots as a designer-oriented West Coast upholstery manufacturer to a full-line resource, offering classically inspired case goods featuring multistep finishes and mixed media elements, such as antiqued mirrors and metal accents.
It also has grown its distribution across the United States and internationally. Today, it has showrooms in Los Angeles and Dallas, as well as a renovated showroom in High Point. For many years, its headquarters was in Pomona, California.
“It was one of the happiest days of my life because, like LaBarge, Marge had a design-driven niche that always worked to make the finest furniture and not take shortcuts in craftsmanship to hit a price point,” LaBarge recalled of when he purchased the company.
Defining a style
Marge Carson also has been known for developing a style of upholstery whose “casual elegance and generous scale” is seen in its curved wood-framed silhouettes and ample cushions with a neutral palette of rich textiles.
Developed by Marge Carson, this came to be defined as the “California casual” look, which blends with the Pacific Coast’s more relaxed way of life and spacious homes. The California casual style eventually spread throughout the country, influencing interior design around the world.
In 1997, the company established a manufacturing operation in Tijuana, making custom upholstery, some of which features exposed wood frames that showcase the company’s expertise in custom finishes and trims.
When the Covid-19 pandemic began, the company, like most others in the industry, dealt with a host of supply chain-related issues that created historically high backlogs. As a result of these challenges, consolidated production in Tijuana, which also began to produce wood furniture.
This allowed the company to lower its lead times to 8-10 weeks for upholstery and beds, compared with as many as 30 weeks for some of its competitors.
The announcement of the company’s closure also has resulted in the closure of the company’s remaining operations in the Philippines and Indonesia, as well as in Mexico.
“Unfortunately, in order to wind down operations for Marge in a timely manner so that I can focus on my health, I have had to stop production in our Tijuana facility,” LaBarge said. “This will not allow us to complete production of our backlog, and we will be sending out cancellations for any orders we cannot fulfill. I am sincerely sorry for any issues this will cause.”
While he needs to focus on his health now, LaBarge said he is grateful for the support the company has received over the years, from its professional staff to the designers and dealers that have purchased the line.
“Marge has been blessed with a talented and dedicated office, design staff, production and sales family,” LaBarge said. “We grew a customer base of the best furniture stores and design firms and developed production partnerships in the Philippines and Indonesia to make custom products in sizes and finishes that met clients’ needs. When so much furniture looks alike, Marge Carson truly stands out on a retail or showroom floor with a look all its own.”
“Many of you have reached out to me with prayers, and we shared wonderful memories of times we have spent together through the years,” he added. “After 49 years in the furniture industry, I am exiting much earlier than I desired, but it has become necessary to focus on my health. I cherish all of my time in the furniture business.”
Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell contributed to this report.