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Sawdust in the Veins

Sunday’s Roanoke Times ran an extensive front-page story about the Vaughan-Bassett furniture company in Galax, Va., prominently featuring two of the company’s principals, who also are Washington and Lee alumni — John D. Bassett III, of the Class of 1959, and his son, Wyatt, of the Class of 1988.

The piece describes the battles that the Bassetts are waging to keep their family business afloat while many other furniture companies in the area have failed in the face of competition from China.

Last month, the Times had reported that Vaughan-Bassett was adding 115 more jobs in Galax and announcing an $8 million expansion. In making that announcement, John said: “You can’t compete with China and Vietnam and Malaysia unless you have the finest equipment money can buy and the best employees in the world.”

The feature story begins by relating a trip that John and Wyatt had taken to China in 2001 to size up the competition by searching for the source of a chest of drawers.

Colleagues and observers quoted in the piece say that John “has more sawdust in his veins than anyone in the business” and that, unlike many in his position, he chooses to put people ahead of profits.