Inauguration gifts handcrafted by a Philadelphia-area manufacturer of upscale home goods were presented Wednesday to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Lenox Corp., the creator of dinnerware headquartered in Bristol Borough, created two crystal vases that were given by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) to the newly minted commander in chief and his veep as “the official inaugural gifts from the American people.”
It’s a nice little public relations coup for the company, which last year was battered by COVID-19. The pandemic forced Lenox to shutter its last U.S. manufacturing plant and close its retail outlets, and led to its acquisition by a private-equity firm in October.
The lead crystal vase given to Biden features an image of the White House set within a classic cartouche, typically an oval or oblong design with a slightly convex surface lined with ornamental scrollwork. Harris’ piece depicts the Capitol Building surrounded by similar flourishes. Both were deep-cut by hand by master craftsman Peter O’Rourke of Pennsylvania.
“They really sparkle and are almost like diamonds,” said Fawn Ostriak, chief creative officer for Lenox, about the details cut into the base of the vases. ”This is the ninth consecutive time that Lenox has created the inaugural gifts for the president and vice president. We are so proud and honored to be part of this tradition.”
The company, founded 130 years ago in Trenton, was forced to shrink its American manufacturing and its brick-and-mortar presence in 2020. The pandemic destroyed much of its retail activity, but trends in home entertaining have also taken their toll.
Brides no longer feel required to ask for patterned dinnerware on their registries. Those who own fancy china rarely bring it out of the cupboard for major holidays. And who throws elaborate dinner parties any longer?
“Eating styles are more individualized and reflect our increased diversity as a society — poke bowls, keto, one-dish meals,” said Lenox CEO Mads Ryder. “There are no more rules on what to eat or how to set the table.”
In April, Lenox permanently closed its last U.S. manufacturing plant, in Kinston, N.C., where it made bone china. The company cited business challenges triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. “There is no one to buy our products,” Ryder told trade publication HFN at the time. “We sell a little online, but our sales have disappeared.”
In July, Lenox announced it was closing all of its outlet and warehouse stores; its locations included Egg Harbor City and Bethlehem.
Centre Lane Partners, a private equity firm based in New York, purchased Lenox in October for an undisclosed sum. The deal included Lenox’s core brand as well as Dansk and Reed & Barton.
Lenox employs about 160 people at its headquarters on Radcliffe Street in Bristol Borough.
“Like many American companies, we have suffered immensely during COVID-19 and had to make some very difficult business decisions to continue to survive,” Ryder said in a statement. “Shuttering divisions, realigning our product categories, and refocusing our efforts on building on the vision that has made Lenox so unique since its founding in 1889 has become the foundation of our efforts as we move forward.”
In addition to dinnerware, the company purveys a strong line of barware, home decor items, and Christmas ornaments, Ryder said. “Our Tuscany barware line is within the top 10 most registered for by U.S. brides, according to the Knot” website, he said.