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In this Issue

U.S. New-Home Sizes Set Record Last Year

NEWP Acquires Allegheny Pellet Corporation

England’s Stove Works Has New President

Watkins Manufacturing Acquires Endless Pools

U.S. New-Home Sizes Set Record Last Year

Like waistlines, American homes keep getting bigger.

The median size of completed homes last year hit a new record of 2,415 sq. ft., according to the Commerce Department.

Home sizes grew in every year between 1995 and 2007, but they fell during the recession as builders went small to compete with cheap foreclosures.

When the recession hit, “all the pundits said, ‘The McMansion is dead,’” Douglas Yearley, chief executive of luxury home builder Toll Brothers told investors last fall. “But the American dream is still to chase the big beautiful home with the lavish master suite and the spectacular gourmet kitchen and the finished basement that has the wine room and the media room.”

Home sizes are rising even as sales have slowed because builders have competed for affluent buyers who aren’t likely to run into trouble qualifying for a mortgage and saving for a down payment. In January, builders sold 481,000 homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, down 0.2 percent from December, according to the Commerce Department. Sales in 2014 were up just 1.9 percent from the year before.

At the same time, builders sold slightly more homes priced above $400,000 than those priced below $200,000 for the first time ever last year. Around 4.8 percent of homes sold for at least $750,000, a new record.


NEWP Acquires Allegheny Pellet Corporation

Rentech has announced that its subsidiary, New England Wood Pellet (NEWP), has acquired the assets of Allegheny Pellet Corporation (Allegheny). The acquisition expands NEWP’s market position as the largest producer of wood pellets for the U.S. heating market.

“Consistent with the growth strategy we outlined when we acquired NEWP, we are pleased to expand NEWP’s platform with the acquisition of Allegheny,” said Sean Ebnet, senior vice president of Rentech’s wood fibre business.

Allegheny’s wood pellet plant in Youngsville, Pennsylvania, has been operating since 1993. The facility processes residuals from local sawmills into wood pellets for sale through Big Box stores, specialty retailers and bulk sales channels. The plant has historically experienced relatively stable feedstock costs due to a consistent supply of residuals within an economic haul radius of the facility. Allegheny’s customers are responsible for the costs and logistics arrangements of pellet deliveries. Allegheny will be fully integrated into NEWP and will operate as its fourth pellet plant.

NEWP intends to expand the plant’s annual production from approximately 36,000 tons under a four-day work-week to approximately 50,000 tons under a seven-day work-week. The additional production will help meet strong demand for pellets in Pennsylvania and New York. Allegheny is expected to generate approximately $10 million in revenues and $1.5 million in EBITDA annually once operating full-time.

NEWP acquired all of the assets of Allegheny for approximately $7 million in cash, using the proceeds of a five-year, $8 million term loan from TD Bank, N.A. The term loan amortizes over seven years, has an interest rate of LIBOR plus 2.25 percent, and contains financial covenants that may restrict distributions from NEWP to Rentech.

NEWP expects to invest over the next two years approximately $2 million of available cash in environmental and safety improvements at the plant.

About Rentech, Inc.
Rentech, Inc. RTK, -0.79% owns and operates wood fibre processing, wood pellet production and nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing businesses. Rentech offers a full range of integrated wood fibre services for commercial and industrial customers around the world, including wood chipping services, operations, marketing, trading and vessel loading, through its subsidiary, Fulghum Fibres. The Company’s New England Wood Pellet subsidiary is a leading producer of bagged wood pellets for the U.S. heating market. Rentech manufactures and sells nitrogen fertilizer through its publicly-traded subsidiary, Rentech Nitrogen Partners, L.P. RNF, +0.43%

Visit the website.


England’s Stove Works Has New President

England’s Stove Works (ESW) has named Jeffrey R. Bryant as company president; he will report to chief executive officer Carroll Hudson. 

“Jeff is a perfect match for our company,” said Carroll Hudson. He’s an Amherst County resident, and his roots are here, but he has extensive experience in dealing with national accounts, which is imperative in our business. I’ve worked with Jeff in various capacities for many years, and he is a hard-working professional, through and through.” 

Bryant actually joined the company several months before the official announcement. He said that he’s to join the company, and wasted no time in doing so.  

“I had to hustle to come onboard and begin working with Carroll and the team at England’s Stove Works during the busy part of the year,” Bryant said. “It was ‘on-the-job training’ in every sense of the word, but it has been rewarding and I’ve already learned a great deal.” 

Hudson said that he will stay on indefinitely as CEO, but that Bryant is already taking the reins of many major projects. “I had no doubt that Jeff would dive right in and continue to lead this company in the right direction,” Hudson said. “He just has a great attitude and work ethic to go along with it.” 

England’s Stove Works, based in Monroe, Virginia, is a family-owned business that was started by Bob and Ron England nearly 40 years ago.  It manufactures pellet, multi-fuel and wood heating stoves (as well as pellet grills), and sells its product nationwide. 

Call (800) 516-3636 or visit the website.


Watkins Manufacturing Acquires Endless Pools

Watkins Manufacturing Corporation, the world’s largest manufacturer of hot tubs, has acquired Endless Pools through its parent company, Masco Corporation. The acquisition allows Watkins to expand its line of personal well-being products into the aquatic fitness category, opening new channels of distribution and access to a new customer base.

Watkins Manufacturing will maintain the Endless Pools brand, and Endless Pools’ headquarters will remain in Aston, Pennsylvania. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

About Watkins Manufacturing
Watkins Manufacturing is headquartered in Vista, California. Its brands include Hot Spring Spas, Caldera Spas, Freeflow Spas and Fantasy Spas. Watkins Manufacturing is a wholly‐owned subsidiary of Masco Corporation, (NYSE: MAS), headquartered in Taylor, Michigan.

“Endless Pools is a perfect fit within our long-term strategic plan,” stated Steve Hammock, president of Watkins Manufacturing. “The Endless Pools management team has done an outstanding job of innovating, developing differentiated solutions, and building and managing a leading consumer brand.”

About Endless Pools
Endless Pools is a 30‐year pioneer in the development and marketing of aquatic fitness products including counter‐current swim machines and underwater treadmills. The Endless Pools customer base is extensive, including commercial enterprises, numerous colleges and universities, and consumers.

“The addition of Endless Pools to the Watkins family adds a premium, complementary brand to an already superior product mix,” said James Murdock, founder and president of Endless Pools. “The two organizations are certain to benefit from a shared vision of the important health and fitness benefits we want to promote and the consumer experience we want to provide.”

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