January 22, 2022

Moosehead furniture treasured, world-famous

For generations, Moosehead Manufacturing in Monson and Dover-Foxcroft has been a staple in the region.

Furniture bearing the company’s signature dovetail-shaped joints and Moosehead Manufacturing seal has been treasured and passed down through families in the area for 60 years.

But the family-owned business that spans three generations starting in 1947 with brothers John and Tolford Durham is closing its doors for good.

Unfair trade practices by foreign companies selling furniture at artificially low prices are being blamed for taking a toll on the local manufacturer despite attempts by the federal and state government to help. About three years ago, as declining sales mounted, the company was forced to lay off more than 50 people, and the situation hasn’t improved in the last few years.

The Moosehead Manufacturing adventure began when independent woodsman Tolford Durham noticed a vacant plant in Monson as he traveled from Belfast to northern Maine. Seeing the potential, Tolford talked to John and the Durhams purchased the property. They soon hired about 40 people and began making table and chair sets.

Over the next decade they developed a solid business base and were able to expand their product lines and add a second plant in Dover-Foxcroft in 1961.

Three generations of relatives have since run Moosehead Manufacturing, including James Durham, Bill Wentworth, Wayne Huff and current president John Wentworth and his brother, Vice President Jim Wentworth. John and Jim Wentworth are founder John Durham’s grandsons.

Known worldwide, Moosehead Manufacturing had a complete line of household furniture, including upholstered pieces, by 1966. The company had increased to 175 employees at the Monson production plant with a combined annual payroll at the two facilities totaling about $500,000.

Shortly after the company’s 40th anniversary, it rolled out a new line of casual colonial bedroom furniture called the Durham Heritage Series in honor of the company’s founder.

In 1995, another line called Memory Lane was added to the company’s inventory to round out the company’s offerings with baby and children’s furniture.

By the late 1980s, the company had grown to $10 million in sales with a payroll of $3.5 million for more than 230 employees. The company’s growth rate was estimated at 2-3 percent each year for the 42 years it had been open by that time.

But the company didn’t keep its success all to itself. Moosehead Manufacturing has made thousands of dollars in donations to community organizations over the years, including $13,000 in furniture to completely outfit the first phase of the Ronald McDonald House in Bangor.

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