GIRARD – Last year forced many companies to quickly pivot to survive. And how you adjusted operations sometimes depended on your industry. For Soft Touch Furniture, meeting the pandemic’s challenges meant looking forward and also looking back, its owners report.
Soft Touch Furniture was started in 1974 by Bob and Terrie Chudakoff. The company, based in Girard, began by offering residential furniture repair and reupholstering. Through the years, it became known as a custom furniture manufacturer for the restaurant and hospitality industries. Today it operates a 90,000-square-foot manufacturing campus and employs 40.
Since the restaurant and hospitality industries were among the most affected by the pandemic, Soft Touch faced immediate challenges, says Bob Chudakoff.
“Right away, our main customer base was not only shut down but now faces an uncertain future. We knew we had to change it up quickly not only to survive but also help our customer base,” he says.
And so, Soft Touch ramped up residential offerings, he says, which had become a smaller part of the business. With restaurants closed and more people staying home, the need for residential furniture repair and reupholstering grew quickly.
Soft Touch Vice President Megan Vickers, the Chudakoffs’ daughter, spearheaded an internal effort to expand commercial offerings in preparation for its restaurant customers eventually reopening.
“With social distancing a must, we used our design and manufacturing capabilities to offer immediate solutions for restaurants: dividers for restaurant booths to help with social distancing, booths with higher backs, tables with more room,” says Vickers.
The results were apparent right away, she notes. The company was able to keep operating with minimal staff reductions while offering commercial customers innovative solutions that made reopening easier. And while business is not back to pre-2020 levels yet, there is a definite sense of optimism at Soft Touch, according to Vickers.
“We have great customers in the Mahoning Valley and major national chains. And we’re looking forward to working with them to make dining out as comfortable and safe as possible,” she says.
Vickers says the family business is proud of its employees, who have adapted and responded to the pandemic’s challenges. “It was not easy for any of us, and it’s definitely harder to manufacture furniture while social distancing. But everyone has pitched in. We’ve adapted. We’ve innovated. And we’re working together to make 2021 a true bounce-back year.”