The machines are once again humming at 35 Eastman St. in Easton, more than a year and a half after soaking wet snow caused a sprawling, three-decade-old manufacturing plant to crumple under its weight.
Sunco Inc. opened its new $14 million facility a month ago, changing the name of the business from Sunco Cabinets to Eastman St. Woodworks, after its longtime location.
Local officials said they were pleased to see the business stay in town.
“We’re really very relieved they were able to rebuild and get back in business,” said Easton Town Administrator David Colton. “We hope they’ll get back to where they were quickly and continue to have success.”
David Sun, Sunco’s president and owner, said he was committed to the business his family founded in 1983. “I guess we could have walked away, but we wanted to continue,” he said. “The new building is 10 times better and has all new manufacturing equipment.”
According to Sun, 35 of his 50 former employees are now back in their old jobs. Everyone but the office help was laid off after the February 2011 building collapse.
The future will be challenging, Sun said. “We’re starting from scratch, developing our customer base,” he said.
The change in the company’s name from Sunco Cabinets to Eastman St. Woodworks is aimed at alerting prospective customers to its product change. The new, 150,000-square-foot plant is set up to produce a higher-end kitchen and bathroom cabinet than in the past, made solely of US materials. “It’s a marketing thing, so the product won’t be confused with the old line,” Sun said. “The new brand speaks to the new line.”
He said he made the upgrade because he believed, “based on demographics,” that the demand for high-end cabinets in the region is greater than in other parts of the country. “And we’re a sizeable operation, probably the largest cabinet manufacturer in New England,” he added.
Old Colony Planning Council executive director Pat Ciaramella said manufacturing is “one of the few fields still growing” in Massachusetts.
“It’s tremendous they were able to rebuild,” Ciaramella said. “I commend the owner. It’s great for the employees and for Easton.”
Operations manager Liz Pardo vividly recalled the day the old building collapsed. “What I felt was disbelief,” said the 48-year-old Mansfield resident, who has worked for Sun for nine years. “Prior to the collapse, we felt the building shake. We all went running out as it went down.”
While Pardo continued to work in the temporary office setup as the new facility was being built, she said she was happy to see other workers return. “It’s awesome,” she said. “We had to go for more than a year not working with people we had worked with for many years.”
Employee Nick Sottler said he’s simply glad to be back at his machine. “I had gotten another job, but I wanted to come back here where I was comfortable working with the people,” said the 23-year-old Taunton resident. “It’s a relief to be back.”
Sottler and other employees were invited back to work about three months ago, Sun said. They helped move the office operation from its temporary location to the new building. “Then they trained on the new equipment,” Sun said. “It took a little while to get the kinks out, production-wise. We’ve been fully operating now for about a month.”
Plant worker Vladimir Mahotiere said he had found a temporary job to tide him over following his layoff, but he was glad to give it up. “Everybody is happy to be back and going forward,” the 27-year-old from Brockton said last week. “This is way nicer than my other job. My co-workers here are great.”
Local officials will be invited to check out the new building during a grand opening celebration slated for Nov. 15.
Easton can expect a revenue boost in real estate taxes from the $14 million building. Using the fiscal 2012 tax rate of $14.95, the yearly tax bill should top $200,000.Christine Legere can be reached at email@example.com.