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Autumn Harp closing operations in Bristol

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By KATHRYN FLAGG

BRISTOL — Autumn Harp Inc., the largest private employer in Bristol, announced Wednesday that the company is folding its Bristol operations into its Essex facility.

The 30-year-old manufacturer of cosmetics and personal care products employs 160 full-time employees at its Bristol facility and 40 in Essex. All of the company’s Bristol-based employees will be offered the chance to work in Essex, and the company intends to offer transportation for the 30-mile commute between Bristol and Essex. 

Autumn Harp owner David Logan said that while it is impossible to know how many of the employees currently working in Bristol will make the jump to Essex, he is hopeful that most of the 160 will consider the offer.

Logan said that the Bristol property will make a great home for another small business, but that Autumn Harp has outgrown the 47,000-square foot facility on Pine Street.

“Unfortunately, we’re in a residential neighborhood,” Logan said, “and we’re very restricted in the amount that we could expand and grow the company here. We just can’t change that.”

Logan also said that the lack of a town wastewater disposal system contributed the decision to move out of Bristol.

Plans are in the works to expand the company’s 77,000-square foot Essex facility to roughly 125,000 square feet.  Logan said that the company also hopes to expand its workforce, which currently stands at around 200 full-time employees, incrementally over time.

The consolidation is slated to take place during the first half of next year, during the traditional lull for the “somewhat seasonal” manufacturer. Manufacturing and most of administration will lead the migration at the beginning of March. The phased move calls for the company to maintain some offices and research-and-development labs in Bristol until June 2010, when the company’s lease with J.P. Carrara and Sons ends.

Kevin Harper founded Autumn Harp in a tiny space in Ripton in 1977 and moved the business to Rockydale Road in Bristol in 1982. It moved to larger quarters again a decade later when it moved into the Pine Street plant.

Though Logan said Autumn Harp had no plans to leave Bristol two years ago, when the Essex expansion was first announced, on Wednesday he said an internal evaluation conducted over the last six months showed that the business didn’t lend itself to operating out of more than one site.

“To really service our customers and to continue to grow the business and provide opportunities for our employees, we have to make a change,” Logan said.

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