J.K. Adamsseekingnew CEO
DORSET — J.K. Adams will get new leadership later this year as the company and CEO Jon Blatchford will be parting ways after seven years.
Owner Malcolm Cooper and Blatchford both said the parting is mutual and the change came as a result of conversations about the future for the manufacturer of high-end hand-crafted products for cooking and entertaining.
Blatchford, who was hired as the first non-family member to serve as CEO in the spring of 2012, said that after seven years, they both agreed that new vision might benefit the company.
"It's been a challenging and rewarding opportunity here," Blatchford said this week. "I think we both felt like the time was right for a change. It's a mutual decision we made."
J.K. Adams is known for its cutting and serving boards, bowls and other wood products that are works of art as much as they are functional kitchen tools.
They're still made by hand in the Dorset factory on Route 30 as they have been for 75 years.
But the manufacturing business is facing difficulties as competition has
continually moved production overseas to save money.
J.K. Adams, Cooper said, won't be doing that.
"We're going to keep it on a track that will allow it to stay in town," Cooper said. "I think little towns lose something when they lose these little manufacturers."
But that doesn't mean that J.K. Adams doesn't need to continually innovate to stay in the game.
He said their products are constantly being copied by foreign manufacturers but the cost of going after them through the courts is prohibitive.
"We just constantly try to come up with some new products," Cooper said, adding that "What new direction we might be taking the company to compete in this market where there aren't many manufacturing businesses left. It's been a struggle. It's not easy."
"The wood products industry in Vermont is a really challenging industry," Blatchford said. "We think we're on the right path to maintain the wholesale business but we're also trying to build a direct-to-consumer business."
Cooper praised Blatchford for his seven years of leadership at J.K. Adams.
"He's done a yeoman's job and he's worked very hard and kept the business moving ahead," Cooper said. "Jon's been a diligent and focused, hard-working CEO. But we agreed that a new set of eyes are needed."
Blatchford will stay on through the summer until his replacement is on board and ready to take over.
"I care deeply about the employees here and the long-term customers I have a very good relationship with," Blatchford said. "Staying on board for two to three months."
Blatchford said how long he stays will be up to Cooper and the newly hired CEO.
""I'll leave that to Malcome and whoever is hired to be my replacement," Blatchford said. "Malcome is actively looking for a leader for the business going forward. The transition will be smooth. I am committed to helping the company keep going forward."
Cooper confirmed that timeline.
"He's doing to stay on as long as needed to ensure an orderly transition," Cooper said, adding that he is conducting a search now for the next CEO.
"I don't have someone in the wings."
Blatchford said he expects to stay in the manufacturing industry that he has worked in since 1990. He also said he's committed to keeping his family in Vermont if possible or northern New England.
Cooper said Blatchford will land on his feet.
"I'm going to give him a glowing recommendation," Cooper said. "And Jon and I have worked out what we think is a very equitable agreement."
Contact Darren Marcy at email@example.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.
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