Creating jobs and opportunities

The story of the success of Standard Textile is the story of the company’s commitment to creating jobs for those who want to work, a commitment that dates back to the company’s founder, a refugee from Nazi Germany who wanted to work and started his own business in order to do so.On Thursday, during a ceremony attended by both corporate and local executives as well as local government, business, and economic development officials, Standard Textile formally opened its new distribution center at 100 Industrial Park Road in the Buffalo community.

Among those participating in the ceremony was Edward M. Frankel, Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer for Standard Textile, who traveled to Buffalo from the company’s corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, to take part in the opening. Frankel spoke about Standard Textile’s corporate philosophy which he said is “not just about the bottom line, it’s about working with people, it’s about creating jobs and opportunities, it’s about creating opportunities for people who need to work.” He said this philosophy — and the success it has produced — has its origins in the experience of Charles Heiman, the founder of Standard Textile.

Heiman and his family fled Nazi Germany after he escaped from the Dachau concentration camp. They made their way to America, ultimately settling in Cincinnati. Due the Great Depression, Heiman was unable to find a job, a problem he solved by using his experience in the textile industry to establish Standard Textile on July 1, 1940 in a room on the third floor of an apartment building.

Frankel told Heiman’s story, a story that he said soon involved his family. He said that Heiman needed a production staff to begin sewing the textile products produced by his fledgling company. Frankel said that was how his grandmother, Frieda, went to work for Standard Textile. He said Heiman hired her and she became the nucleus of the company’s production staff, working at a sewing machine in the basement of the apartment building that housed the newly-formed Standard Textile.

Heiman’s struggle to find a job despite his experience and desire to work and his solution to that struggle shaped Standard Textile’s philosophy of success through creating job opportunities for those who want to work. Frankel said that philosophy has benefited not only those who have went to work for the company but the company itself, which has been rewarded not only with success, but the loyalty of those employees and their families. He said that his grandmother — who he said worked for Standard Textile until her retirement at the age of 90 — was the first of four generations of Frankels to work for Standard Textile. This, Frankel said, is not unusual, that there are many employees whose families have worked for Standard Textile for generations over the past 77 years.

Since its founding by Charles Heiman in 1940, Standard Textile has grown into a global firm that by the early 21st century had 23 manufacturing facilities and distribution centers in 12 countries. That number includes the textile manufacturing facility the company has operated at 100 High Point Drive in the H. Mac Johnson Industrial Park off US 176 in the Union area since 2004. That number grew in 2016 when the company, in need of additional space, purchased and began renovating and expanding the old Greenleaf building at 100 Industrial Park Road in the Buffalo community to serve as its newest distribution center.

In his address during Thursday’s ceremony, Jim Lefevre, Vice President of Engineering for Standard Textile, said that the distribution center is “Standard Textile’s second major expansion in Union County in four years.” Lefevre said the process that lead to Thursday’s ceremony began two years ago when Standard Textile learned that it had to vacate the 45,000 square-foot structure it had dubbed the “Annex” on the Jonesville Highway it had been renting from the county which was being sold to Gonvauto. Initially, Lefevre said the company was looking for another 45,000 square-foot facility to store sheeting rolls and the last place he said they looked at was the 135,000 square-foot Greenleaf building.

The building, which was built around 1970, was badly in need of renovations and repairs, including a new roof, and Lefevre said the company’s broker said it was way over priced and he was crazy for even considering it. Nevertheless, Lefevre said he was convinced this should be the site of the company’s new distribution center.

Lefevre’s instinct proved correct as, for all the work it required, the building was just what Standard Textile needed, in more ways than one.

“The fact that it was so much bigger than what we were looking for actually spun into another great opportunity — one that had not been considered up until we found this building,” Lefevre said. “We could use the extra space to move out of our 3PL operation in Savannah, Georgia and do all of the Marriott distribution out of Union. Instead of nine trucks a week making the 228-mile trip — we could ship four miles down the road and run the distribution ourselves.”

Marriott is Marriott International which, in 2016, entered into an agreement with Standard Textile for the company to provide the hotel chain with “Made in USA” towels and bath mats in every guest bathroom in its nearly 3,000 hotels across the United States. The agreement between Standard Textile and Marriott International resulted in the creation of 65 new jobs in Union County, once again demonstrating Standard Textile’s commitment to and success in creating jobs for people who want to work.

Lefevre said that the agreement with Marriott made it even more imperative that the company get a new distribution center and soon. He said it was then that he and Chris Bopp, Chief Operating Officer for Standard Textile, met with Bob Caldwell, the owner of the Greenleaf building, and toured the facility. At first, it was not a very comfortable experience for Lefevre.

“As we walked the property for all of about 20 minutes, Chris is not saying word to me,” Lefevre said. “I think, ‘Oh crap, he thinks I’m nuts.’”

Then, however, Lefevre got a surprise, a very pleasant one, if somewhat unexpected.

“As we finish shaking hands with Bob and thank him for meeting us, Chris turns to me and says ‘Make an offer today, but, you need to be storing and shipping terry rolls for Marriott within two weeks.’ I said ‘Two weeks of closing?’ and he said ‘No, two weeks from today!’ Then he wants to know why I did not move on this property quicker.”

Quicker was then the operative word for Lefevre who then negotiated a deal that enabled Standard Textile to acquire the property and bring in the first terry rolls two weeks to the day after he and Bopp toured it.

Even as it began operating out of the building, Standard Textile began renovating the original building and then adding another 60,000 square feet. The renovated and expanded facility can now hold 3,000 to 4,000 rolls depending on size and mix, approximately 9,000 pallets, and 4.2 million yards of fabric in its warehouse. The facility is staffed by 11 full-time workers who were quite busy Thursday and stay that way every day.

Lefevre said that, like the manufacturing facility on High Point Drive, the distribution center on Industrial Park Road is modern, clean, and state-of-the-art. He said this was the goal of the company, to have a distribution center that was just as clean and modern as the manufacturing facility, one that it could be proud to bring its customers through.

It succeeded.

By Charles Warner, Staff Reporter with The Union Times