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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Millie Tripp, August 12, 1994. Interview K-0112. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Decline in product quality presages a takeover

The White Furniture factory's output suffered a decline in quality in the 1980s, Tripp recalls, and she had a growing feeling that the company was in store for a major change.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Millie Tripp, August 12, 1994. Interview K-0112. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
While you were working at White's in the 80s did you notice a decline in [pause] how, what factors?
MILLIE TRIPP:
What you attribute to?
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Yeah.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Ah, well, I felt that the gentlemen who were head of that company over all the years were each very bright, brilliant in their situations. I don't know that it was when newer people started in and made changes or, of course, maybe the times needed changing, I don't know, but in that time there was a decline. Maybe in problems and maybe in some of the 80s were some poor financial times in the country, I think. But, I know we had more quality problems at that time, and maybe there were things between the factions.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
Factions being the people who were making decisions for the company?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Uh, huh. Possibly in that area.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
'Cause in sales you have seen, you would have heard the calls coming in about maybe problems with the furniture or problems with the suppliers, so you--.
MILLIE TRIPP:
Yeah, I don't know about the suppliers at that point whether or not there were problems or not, no, but I had seen them since. I'm not sure other than I know there were certain quality problems, maybe the designs that they brought out were more difficult in procedures or whatever they had to do. One grouping, in particular, that came out, an oriental grouping that we are still selling.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
An oriental?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Uh, huh. I'll show you some things. We're still selling today so it's been going on since, at least, the early 80s. I can't remember what year that was brought out right now, but certainly back in June, and we had a new younger designer that designed that. It was beautiful, well received, I mean, just great time, just great big time in markets. Made copies, people trying to market it off, but weren't successful. But it went big time, and it's still a popular group. It is going to be dropped this time; the final cutting is coming in now. I remember in that particular grouping there were problems in making this. They had a real high sheen. The table tops seemed that they had problems galore with those and spent time working that out. And types of that thing that maybe they were more complicated for some reason or something that made them harder to--. Maybe they had to find new materials that weren't normal for the time or something. Back in that time it seems like things started going down. I feel that there was friction somewhere in there. I hesitate to say anything like what would cause that. I really don't like to get into that, but during those times started and over the years--I don't think they ever lost money. I know the last couple of years that they owned it, right in there, is when things started happening.
VALERIE PAWLEWICZ:
That's how you account for the sales?
MILLIE TRIPP:
Well, they were losing money so I'm not sure, I mean, why they decided to--. I don't know why they sold it as cheaply as I understood they did 'cause we had a backlog of orders about that deep. [measuring with fingers] It was difficult times that last year certainly. And, of course, everybody was feeling so insecure for the first time in all the years at White's even though we saw business, a few times, get very bad when orders were very slim, we still didn't have the feeling that you weren't going to have a job, but it became more and more the fact that something had to happen.