BELLINGHAM - A longtime local manufacturer was sold to a national firm in a move that's expected to lead to further growth in Bellingham.
Bellingham's Wood Stone Corp., which makes stone hearth cooking equipment and employs 133 people locally, has agreed to be acquired by Henny Penny, a global food-service equipment company headquartered in Eaton, Ohio. Financial terms were not disclosed on the deal, which is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks.
Customers will not notice much change, according to Wood Stone company officials. The facility will remain in Bellingham under the Wood Stone name, and no changes in personnel will take place because of the sale. That includes co-founder/CEO Keith Carpenter and Wood Stone president Kurt Eickmeyer, who will continue to operate the Bellingham facility.
The main reason for the sale is that it will allow Wood Stone to grow, both in the products it manufacturers and into new markets, said Eickmeyer.
"What this does is bring some products we've developed to market quicker and into more markets," he said. "At the rate we're growing, this is a good fit for Henny Penny. They've already gone through this (stage of growth) and can help us."
Eickmeyer stressed that a key part of the deal was the importance that Wood Stone remain in Bellingham, as well as having a similar company culture.
"They wouldn't have been interested in us and we wouldn't have been interested in them if the company culture compatibility wasn't there," he said. "We want to live in Bellingham, and they understand that."
Wood Stone, perhaps best known for its wood-burning pizza ovens when it started in 1990, has diversified into a variety of commercial kitchen equipment, including duck ovens, satay grills and pita bread ovens.
This year, Wood Stone increased its sales by 20 percent and is nearing capacity at its two buildings, which are near Bellingham International Airport. Combined, the two buildings have 117,000 square feet of space, with 97,000 square feet dedicated to manufacturing, Eickmeyer said.
Henny Penny has 55 years experience in the food-service equipment industry. Its product lines include open fryers, combination ovens, rotisseries and cabinets. According to its website, Henny Penny was named KFC Equipment Supplier of the Year the past two years.
Rob Connelly, president of Henny Penny, said in a news release that they've admired Wood Stone for years and plan to build on the products Wood Stone produces.
"In turn, we deliver to Wood Stone the scale and resources to manage accelerated growth," Connelly said.
Wood Stone was founded in 1990 by Carpenter and Harry E. Hegarty, the company's chief operating officer. Since 1990 the company has sold more than 10,000 ovens and has customers that include Wolfgang Puck and California Pizza Kitchen.