Connor Homes founder seeking to reopen business in new spot

MIDDLEBURY — Connor Homes founder Mike Connor confirmed on Tuesday he is sizing up a new Middlebury location in which to rekindle the business after negotiations to reopen the enterprise at its longtime Route 7 plant failed.
This news is at least a temporary setback for the 63 laid-off employees who helped make Connor Homes’ specialty colonial reproduction “kit” homes.
Employees had been told of a potential return to work by the end of this month, but Mike Connor and current Connor Homes co-owner Samuel Pryor have been unable to forge a deal for the transfer of the Route 7 property or its assets.
Company officials told workers on Tuesday that the layoffs — which took effect Dec. 30 — are now permanent.
But Mike Connor said he’s hoping to change that narrative. He confirmed on Wednesday he is in negotiations with the owner of a building in Middlebury’s industrial park off Exchange Street that could quickly accommodate the once thriving business.
“We’re very optimistic this is going to happen,” Connor said of the move to the industrial park, which is being facilitated by Jamie Gaucher, director of the Middlebury Office of Economic Development & Innovation.
With Gaucher’s help, Connor said he has found potential funding for the move, which Connor believes could result in some of the former Connor Homes employees returning within three weeks, with others to follow.
Connor declined at this point to identify the building and its owner.
A return to business under a new corporate name would also allow Connor to satisfy the roughly 10 clients whose home orders were in progress when the layoffs were announced in December. Connor said he has emailed those clients about his current circumstances and a willingness to complete their orders if/when the business is re-established at the new location.
Meanwhile, Pryor confirmed on Tuesday that the 116,000-square-foot Connor Homes headquarters at 1741 Route 7 South in Middlebury is now being listed for lease or sale, by Nedde Real Estate. The asking price: $3 million, which includes 19.2 acres of land and two divisible building lots.
Pryor said the Connor Homes property listing was “at the insistence” of Merchants Bank, a lender.
And Pryor offered some additional news: 10 workers with J.S. Benson Windows & Doors — a complementary business that joined Connor Homes several years ago — have been summoned back to work. That brings up to 14 the number of Benson employees who are back to making the company’s premium windows and doors, according to Pryor.
Mike Connor has been in the home construction business for more than 40 years, and founded the business that bears his name back in 1992. He ceded control of the enterprise — which was facing recession-related financial problems — around four years ago to a group of investors headed by Pryor.
In 2007 Connor Homes moved into the 115,000-square-foot former home of Standard Register on Route 7. The company moved there in response to growing demand for its products, recently featured on the popular PBS television series “This Old House.”
Connor Homes blossomed from 32 employees in 14,000 square feet off Exchange Street to 70 workers in 2012. The company’s workforce has periodically shrunk and expanded in reaction to market forces.
It remains to be seen what name Mike Connor will use when and if he re-opens. He noted Pryor has purchased several variations of the “Connor Homes” domain name for use on websites — including (on Jan. 19) the one Mike Connor had intended to use, “Connor Mill Built Homes.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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