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November 29, 2012

‘It’s Heartbreaking’: Woodmere china to cease production

NEW CASTLE — With customers like Mount Vernon and the Library of Congress, it’s tough for a local china company to say farewell.

But Castle China, which makes Woodmere china, will end its relationship with such historical patrons when its doors close at the end of the year.

After more than three decades, the business at 2618 W. State St. is stopping production.

Managing owner David Turner attributes the closing to a shrinking customer base, because of the economy.

“It’s heartbreaking in a certain way, but the last couple of years have not been friendly to small American companies, Turner said. He noted that many of Castle China’s customers have gone out of business.

“We’ve had a decent year but it’s a much smaller year,” he said Wednesday. “We’ve had a lot of wonderful customers.”

The company is working hard to fill holiday orders, Turner said, and is still accepting orders as long the staff can fill them.

Woodmere creates porcelain dinnerware with American history designs, many of which are museum-quality pieces. Its products have served as distinctive gifts for presidents, heads of state and dignitaries. Its significant pieces include the White House Collection, Flowers of the First Ladies Collection, the Heritage of America Collection and the American Treasures Collection.

“We have had a lot of great customers, such as Mount Vernon, the Reagan Library, the John F. Kennedy Library and the Library of Congress,” Turner said.

The company is working closely with its eight employees — six full time and two part time — to help them find them positions with other local firms.

“After a long exploration of the various options available, we have made the very difficult decision to close Castle China and bring to end a nearly 40-year run for the Woodmere brand,” he said in a prepared statement this week.

The decision came after discussions with various potential buyers and merger candidates and looking at other possibilities, he noted.

The company’s final business day will be Dec. 28.

“Our appreciation goes out to the current employees of Castle China for their enduring loyalty and those employees throughout the many years that have helped to make the Woodmere brand such a prestigious symbol of American history,” Turner said.

“We are appreciative, also, to the many customers with whom we’ve enjoyed such great relationships through the years,” he added.

“This has been a great company and a fabulous category to be in. We’re saddened, that’s for sure.”

Of the employees, Turner said, “I would absolutely call them artists. We do a little bit of handpainting, but mostly they do application of decal that we print. It’s not as simple as it seems to get it exact and do 600 dinner plates to get every one of them right.”

Turner became co-owner of the company 14 years ago. Its original owner was Gene Tway, who retired.

(Email: dwachter@ncnewsonline.com)

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