How One Furniture Maker Battled Offshoring, Stayed Local - And Helped Save an American Town
By Beth Macy
Little Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316231435, 464pp.
Publication Date: July 15, 2014
The Bassett Furniture Company was once the world's biggest wood furniture manufacturer. Run by the same powerful Virginia family for generations, it was also the center of life in Bassett, Virginia. But beginning in the 1980s, the first waves of Asian competition hit, and ultimately Bassett was forced to send its production overseas.
One man fought back: John Bassett III, a shrewd and determined third-generation factory man, now chairman of Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co, which employs more than 700 Virginians and has sales of more than $90 million. In FACTORY MAN, Beth Macy brings to life Bassett's deeply personal furniture and family story, along with a host of characters from an industry that was as cutthroat as it was colorful. As she shows how he uses legal maneuvers, factory efficiencies, and sheer grit and cunning to save hundreds of jobs, she also reveals the truth about modern industry in America.
"In a world of blue-collar victims, where logging chains seal forever the doors of mills and factories from the Rust Belt to the Deep South, Beth Macy's award-winning look at one furniture maker's refusal to give in is a breath of hope-and a damn fine story to read. The book tracks John Bassett's fight to keep American jobs on this side of borders and oceans, and keeps one American town from becoming a place of empty storefronts and FOR SALE signs."—Rick Bragg, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Most They Ever Had
"Beth Macy has done a masterful job in personalizing the biggest American economic story of our time--how to save American jobs in the 21st Century. John Bassett III is a cinematic figure and quintessential American, battling for his company, his town and his country."—Jonathan Alter, author of The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies
"Macy's riveting narrative is rich in local color.... Vivid reporting."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"The unlikely hero of Factory Man is a determined, ornery, and absolutely indomitable...business man. He's the head of a family furniture company and damned if he's going to be pushed around. Beth Macy has given us an inspiring and engaging tale for our times, but not the expected one."—Alex Jones, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Losing the News: The Future of the News that Feeds Democracy, Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy and Laurence M. Lombard Lecturer in the Press and Public Policy
"The epic struggle of Virginia furniture manufacturer John Bassett III (JBIII) to save his business has given crackerjack reporter Beth Macy the book she was born to write. Longtime champion of the downtrodden and the working American, Macy brings globalization down to a human scale, giving a real voice and a recognizable face to everyone involved, from factory worker to government official to Chinese importer. Thorough reporting and brilliant writing combine to make FACTORY MAN an exciting, fast-paced account of a quintessentially American story that affects us all."—Lee Smith, author of Guests on Earth
"Beth Macy sees twists and subtleties that other journalists can't see, and she writes about the world around her with grit, honesty and remarkable grace. She has a police detective's diligence and determination, a poet's way with words, and a born storyteller's gift for spot-on narrative."—Martin Clark, author of The Legal Limit
"I've been reading Beth Macy for years. She is a great American writer. She sees everything, all the precious detail. A few years back, as the world was collapsing around us, she did a story on the temp who was answering phones at a hotline for those in financial hot water. The temp was this immense hero in all these ways that nobody else would have ever recognized. Of course, Macy never called her a hero. She just let the story do the work."—Roland Lazenby, author of Michael Jordan
"John Bassett's story has everything. An extraordinary dynasty, a relevant and inspiring message, and one of the best heroes I've read about in years. It works on every level, from the most personal betrayal to the realities of the global economy, from the struggle of one worker in a small Appalachian town to the future of our cultural as a whole. Part of me wishes I'd found John Bassett III, because this is powerful stuff, but it's obvious the story is in excellent hands with Beth Macy. Sometimes the right writer comes along with the right story at the right time. This is clearly that book."—Bret Witter, author of Dewey and Until Tuesday
Virginia furniture owner John Bassett III was determined to beat out foreign competitors. Author Beth Macy documents him, and the collapse of the U.S. furniture industry, in her new book, Factory Man. More at NPR.org
NPR Audio Player Requires Flash Upgrade: Please upgrade your plug-in to view this content.