The recent closure of B.F. Rich Windows and Doors in Delaware tragically illustrates how the housing crash that began in 2007 was much deeper and more painful than a lot of us realized.

After several rough years, the industry appears to have smoothed out, according to a column from Mike Collins of Building Industry Advisors that will appear in the March issue of DWM. In 2016, there was just one plant closing, Collins’ research shows. It was the first since one company closed in 2013 and three underwent bankruptcy in 2012.

But now, barely a month into 2017, we’re seeing a major plant shutdown that puts about 130 people out of work and leaves a big hole in door and window distribution in the Mid-Atlantic.

“It’s a difficult thing,” Mark Milanese of Milanese Remodeling in Coatesville, Pa., told DWM last week. “What’s going to happen in the future, only the crystal ball can tell. The good news it’s a good product, and complaints were minimal.”

B.F. Rich had been in business for 60 years.  So why did they shut down? It’s unclear. The company only released one short statement.

“B.F. Rich has experienced financial setbacks dating back to the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007,” said Terry Rex, vice president of sales and marketing, in an e-mail to DWM. “This situation could not be sustained.”

Sources also told DWM that the company had courted a buyer, but the deal fell through.

The Window Dog website that’s run by Dan Schweihs, president of Window Universe, speculates that financing could have been a problem.

“Window manufacturers may still be feeling the effects due to the way their fixed costs, equipment and manufacturing facilities are financed,” Schweihs writes. “Many manufacturers have also updated their product lines in recent years, which is undoubtedly an expensive process. This means new designs, new tooling and much more. A company with limited financing options may not be able to make that investment in the business. That would cause them to have less competitive products, which would cause difficulty in attracting new customers and achieving much-needed price increases. Smaller window manufacturers are faced with relatively high fixed costs in a very competitive business. When they’re faced with a slowdown in sales, the need to retool a plant or the expiration of certain credit facilities, they can quickly find themselves in a bad situation with very few options.”

Whatever the reason, Milanese is mourning the loss of longtime family friends and business partners. B.F. Rich and the remodeling company founded by his father had worked closely together since 1958.

“They found my dad’s company for their products — aluminum storm windows and doors,” Milanese said. “Ultimately this partnership got to be a very close relationship. In fact, B.F. Rich’s first major acquisition was signed at our family’s dinner table.”

In the end, that’s the saddest part — the effect this has on people, including all the good employees at B.F. Rich who are now out of a job. Let’s hope they can find work soon.

1 Comment

  1. Do you know if BF Rich’s machinery is being auctioned off?

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