Hiddenite furniture executive aims to win fair and square – Hickory Daily Record

HIDDENITE — When Roy R. Calcagne became president and CEO of Craftmaster Furniture 11 years ago, he met with each of the company’s approximately 400 employees in groups of 25 to convey his vision for the future.

Rumors were flying that the 34-year-old, privately owned upholstered furniture manufacturer was destined to become little more than a warehouse operation for its new, Chinese owners.

Calcagne assured Craftmaster employees that he and the new owners planned to grow the company. Further, he told them his goal was to make Craftmaster a great company, a place people were proud to work.

Today, Craftmaster employs nearly 700 people, making it the third-largest employer in Alexander County. It has more than 600,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehousing space, has solidified a reputation for high quality and service, and is a top performer in the Samson Holding Ltd. group, whose brands also include Universal, Paula Deen Home, Legacy Classic and LacquerCraft.  

Craftmaster has also developed a successful in-house training program and is a founding partner of the Alexander Furniture Academy, an industry-driven training program designed by local furniture manufacturers to prepare students for sewing operator and upholstering positions that are in high demand by the region’s largest employers.

“It’s been a great run, really exciting,” Calcagne said. “And what I’m most proud of in this company is that everyone is going in the same direction. We’re all working together for a common goal.”

Calcagne, 58, grew up in northwestern New Jersey, where as a high-schooler he was an all-county wrestler and played soccer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1980, then went to work for Macy’s Department Store. He was an upholstery buyer for Macy’s for 13 years before joining Joan Fabrics and moving to North Carolina. He joined Broyhill in 1999, then Universal Furniture in 2003. Samson purchased Craftmaster in 2006, and Calcagne was named president and CEO.

Calcagne met his wife, Barbara, while they were both buyers for Macy’s. They have been married for 24 years, and have lived in Hickory since 1999. Their son, Johnny, is a 20-year-old rising junior at N.C. State University, where he is studying accounting and finance. A wall in Calcagne’s office at Hiddenite-based Craftmaster is largely devoted to photos of Johnny in action as an all-conference baseball player and captain of the baseball team at Hickory High School.

Calcagne said taking part in sports helps prepare young people for success.

“Being part of a team is important,” he said. “Athletics also motivates kids to succeed, teaches them perseverance, and helps them become coachable. Those attributes are important in life.”

Building Craftmaster has been a true team effort, one in which employees and managers have all stepped up to the plate, Calcagne said.

The company has renovated its plants, improved its employee food services, doubled its 401(k) contributions and initiated a series of pay raises.

Calcagne is especially pleased with an in-house training program initiated in 2013 and that continues to evolve as needs become apparent. There are currently 35 trainees in the company.

He is also proud of the leading role Craftmaster played in the establishment of Alexander Furniture Academy. The academy was launched about a year ago at the request of local furniture manufacturers that were having difficulty hiring qualified employees with skills in sewing and upholstery. Catawba Valley Community College partnered with Craftmaster Furniture, Kincaid Furniture and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams to establish the Alexander Furniture Academy. Efforts have resulted in training nearly 50 students, with a waiting list of applicants. Calcagne and Craftmaster Senior Vice President of Manufacturing Roy Bearden recently accepted a Community Partnership Award from CVCC on behalf of the Alexander Furniture Academy partners.

“Roy Calcagne has been a visionary and a critical partner in establishing a pathway for the future furniture manufacturing workforce in the region,” said Garrett D. Hinshaw, CVCC president. “He has committed time and resources to address a problem in our region that goes beyond the walls of Craftmaster Furniture. He is committed to the success of our region and ‘walks the talk’ when it comes to leadership in this arena.”

Calcagne is a longtime member of the board of the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), which represents more than 200 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, plus about 150 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide.

The High Point-based AHFA administers The Furniture Foundation, a research and education fund that recently designated two grants to support the Alexander Furniture Academy. One grant is earmarked for the purchase of a new industrial sewing machine to help increase the training capacity in the Furniture Academy’s sewing class. The second grant, in the amount of $15,000, will provide 60 scholarships covering the Alexander Furniture Academy’s $250 tuition for 30 students each semester.

Andy S. Counts, the AHFA’s chief executive officer, credits Calcagne with much of the Alexander Furniture Academy’s initial success.

“Roy was the true driving force behind the creation of the Alexander Furniture Academy,” Counts said. “He identified the need and spearheaded the effort that brought together industry leaders and educators to create a solution. These efforts have already changed lives and given dozens of area residents the skills they need for a worthwhile career in the furniture industry. This speaks to Roy’s resolve and his commitment to Alexander County.”

Calcagne insists the Alexander Furniture Academy has been a team effort, and that credit for its success belongs to several area businesses, CVCC and local government.

“I’ve never seen local businesses, government and the community college work so well together,” Calcagne said. “It has been amazing.”

Calcagne is passionate about spreading the message that furniture manufacturing, particularly upholstered furniture manufacturing, remains a thriving industry in the Catawba Valley that offers good-paying jobs for skilled workers.

“We’ve got 45 jobs open right now,” Calcagne said.

Among other community involvements, Calcagne is a member of the advisory board for the accounting program at Catawba Valley Community College, is a past member of the economic development commission in Alexander County, and is involved in the Communities in Schools organization in Alexander County.

A member of St. Aloysius Catholic Church in Hickory, Calcagne enjoys reading nonfiction, playing golf and fly-fishing. He is a longtime New York Yankees fan.

Calcagne said he is driven to succeed, but not at the price of integrity.

“There are no shortcuts; you’ve got to play by the rules,” he said.

And he appreciates the values expressed by Tim McGraw’s song “Humble and Kind.”

“To me, those words represent how you should live your life,” he said.

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