The Homer Laughlin China Company Names Fourth-Generation President, Again.

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Elizabeth McIlvain Succeeds Brother as New President of Family Business.

March 20, 2013—Newell, WV—Family companies steeped in history like The Homer Laughlin China Company (HLC), 142 years old and the largest remaining domestic tableware manufacturer in the United States, tend to write their stories based on generations of leadership, continuing progress, and increasing excellence. The chapters represent milestones, not just change. For the first time in HLC’s history, the mantle of leadership is being handed down, not to a successive generation, but from brother to sister. With a quiet nod typical of the privately held company, Homer Laughlin is pleased to announce Elizabeth McIlvain as its new president, effective March 18, 2013. As a fourth-generation owner of the company, Elizabeth takes over the position from her brother, Joseph Wells III, who is stepping down after 50 years of service.
Wells III will take his esteemed father’s place as chairman of the board.
In her new position, McIlvain will assist the board in overseeing all operations of the company’s two principal divisions — retail and commercial dinnerware — both operating out of the 37-acre manufacturing plant located in Newell, West Virginia. Her main focus is a continued emphasis on increasing sales companywide.
“Liz has been a sounding board for many in the company seeking a level-headed decision maker,” said Wells of his sister, who currently sits on the board as executive vice president. “She has been at my side for the past several years helping me manage day-to-day operations. The way I see it, this move now gives title to what she does every day at HLC. And I’m sure our father, Joe Wells Jr., would have been proud to see the company leadership transitioning this way.”
When asked about her plans, McIlvain said, “Business as usual, but kicked into high gear.” She explained, “We are growing. In the last decade, we have expanded manufacturing, introduced new brands, and assimilated new companies. All the while, our mission has remained true—leadership and innovation in the manufacture of quality lead-free china for the retail and commercial markets. For a company in its second century, growth and commitment to leadership means we run to the next opportunity. That’s what I will encourage. HLC will continue to write the history of the dinnerware category.”
Gene Williamson, recently appointed vice president of sales, Foodservice Division, for the HLC Inc. family of companies, offers that McIlvain is the ear company leaders seek. HLC companies include Homer Laughlin China; Hall China; and the Kenilworth Trading Company, the exclusive distributor of RAK Ceramics in the U.S.
McIlvain has earned the respect of all. “People come to her whether they need direction or have an idea to share,” said Williamson. “It is exciting to see a fourth-generation family member stepping up to fill these shoes. She certainly has the experience and skills to do the job.”
The job, of course, entails overseeing the design and production of HLC products, all executed with superior skill and the finest materials. Homer Laughlin products, including the renowned and iconic American brand Fiesta® dinnerware, have retained their momentum through longstanding tradition and continual innovation. “I think collectors know that they can continue to look forward to new colors and products from Fiesta. It is as exciting for us as it is for them,” promised McIlvain of the dazzling dinnerware collection started in 1936.
Beyond Fiesta, the company offers the broadest line of dinnerware in the United States. From homes to hotels to hospitality, the innovative minds at Homer Laughlin work hard to bring a remarkably wide range of modern, affordable, easily customizable dinnerware and accessories to the table.
“We are most proud of our spirit of innovation, and original ideas happen at every level of the company,” said McIlvain. She would know. Her career at HLC began in 1979 in the office, then the warehouse, and finally as manager of the decorating department by 1982. McIlvain later managed the manufacturing plants until she took a leave to raise her family. She remained active in company business, however, and was named to the board in 1997.
HLC is a company where families come to work, learn, and flourish. Many employees have grown up at HLC, lending a lifetime of experience and expertise.
McIlvain points out that fathers and mothers bring their children into the business because there is opportunity at HLC and the company commits to making a great product. “We wouldn’t be the industry leader we are today without the stewardship and grace of family,” said McIlvain. “The founders of this company agreed that we would be an American company producing an American-made product while providing jobs and giving support to the communities in which we live. That promise is as alive in me as it was my great-grandfather.”
HLC Inc. is proud to lead the way in ceramic tableware manufacturing and American manufacturing job creation. Homer Laughlin China, Kenilworth/RAK, and Hall China comprise the HLC Inc. family of companies, and its diverse range of lead-free dinnerware meets every conceivable need from today’s discerning home chefs all the way to restaurateurs. Setting the tone—not just the table—is at the heart of the HLC commitment to its customers.


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