Many people couldn’t tell you about their great-great-great-grandfather. But for Hussey Seating Co. in North Berwick, family values have been a key to the company’s longevity.

Hussey Seating is celebrating 175 years in business and six generations of Husseys at the helm.

Hussey started as a plow company in 1835, then morphed into a fabricator of steel products such as ski jumps and stepladders before settling into the bleacher and grandstand business.

Now, it makes 800 to 900 seating systems per year, for venues ranging from the New England Patriots’ Gillette Stadium to school gymnasiums around the country.

Hussey specializes in telescopic systems that fold flat against walls, like the one at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville.

“Fortunately for us, we have a pretty good fan base,” so most of the seats are full on game nights, said Jon Hall, the university’s athletic director.

The seats, which are blue and red, the school’s colors, serve the university well, he said, and there haven’t been any safety concerns.

The original Husseys were Quakers, and their ideals are still the cornerstone of the business.

“The values of honesty and integrity are attractive to a lot of employees,” said Tim Hussey, president and chief executive officer, part of the company’s sixth generation.

He said the culture is one of his favorite things about the company, and is what keeps so many of its 190 employees on the payroll year after year.

“It’s just a nice, family-owned company. They treat you good,” said Cheryl Mayo of Wells, who has worked for Hussey for 26 years.

Mayo said Hussey is always doing something to show its employees how much they are appreciated, whether it’s a barbecue or an outing to Funtown/Splashtown USA in Saco.

“The people I work with are just like family,” she said. And often they are family.

While the Hussey name is common at the plant, so are the names Mayo, Boston, Turnbull and others — families that have worked for the company for generations.

Mayo said her husband’s family has been with the company for 154 years, and a number of her in-laws still are.

The company will celebrate its big anniversary on July 30 with a lobster bake, fireworks and dancing.

Hussey said he expects close to 600 people to attend, including U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, whose family lumber business is in its fifth generation.

With such a long history comes significant challenges.

Hussey said that just as his forefathers adjusted to change and gave up producing plows, he is looking to make adaptations.

Last year, Hussey sold about $60 million worth of seating systems, down from $100 million a year at the height of the stadium boom in the 1990s.

“We have to try to figure out where we’re going to grow from here,” Hussey said. “The recession’s really hurt.”

Possibilities include getting more work overseas and branching out into markets other than schools and sports, he said.

Then there’s keeping the company name.

The seventh generation of Husseys is coming of age; some are in college.

Hussey’s 20-year-old daughter, Hannah, has spent some summers working in the marketing department, but Hussey said the decision about working for the company in the future is hers.

Though he will say this: “I think there’s something unique about family businesses.”

 

Staff Writer Stephanie Hardiman can be contacted at 791-6301 or at: [email protected]