Busting at the Seams, New Bedford Apparel Firm Snags Another City Location

By Joe Cohen
Standard-Times Staff Writer

NEW BEDFORD — A city company that solves other businesses’ problems with messed-up apparel orders, distribution difficulties and warehousing needs has outgrown its South End quarters and is moving to a North End factory recently purchased for $1.65 million.
Darn It! Inc. has grown so robust since it began in the mid-1990s it recently purchased the 314,000-square-foot Fibre Leather Manufacturing building at 630-686 Belleville Ave. The company — whose slogan is “Your problem is our business” — plans to rename it the “Darn It! Building” and spend another $1 million-plus on improvements.
Fibre Leather closed up shop in the city last year and moved its operations away.
Darn It!, which started with a handful of employees, now has 110 full-time workers in 175,00-square-foot rented space in the former Berkshire Hathaway mill off Harbor Street. It will be moving in phases to its new space in the next one to two years.
The move marks a homecoming of sorts for Jeffrey Glassman, president of Darn It!, and his father, Norman Glassman. It was to 630 Belleville Ave. that their relatives first came to New Bedford in the 1930s to work in the apparel business and held jobs at New Bedford Manufacturing Co., makers of pajamas for men and women.
Darn It!, by contrast, manufactures virtually nothing. But it is equipped to do almost any phase of apparel manufacturing, repair, packing and shipping and its employees are highly-skilled apparel workers. “Apparel refurbishment” is one of its three lines of business and involves fixing, sewing, labeling and correcting manufacturing errors as well as cleaning up other kinds of apparel-related problems for a range of manufacturers.
Because its customers do not want to be known for sending products that have errors to be remade or fixed up at Darn It!, the company refuses to disclose names in its customer base. The unnamed companies are household names — especially for middle- and higher-income shoppers — and range from high-end outdoor gear makers to well known ladies clothing companies and makers of European men’s clothing.
Jeffrey Glassman, who lives in Sharon, and Norman Glassman, who lives in Dartmouth, are part of a long family presence in the New Bedford business community.
Norman, who is treasurer and actively involved in his son’s business, founded Ronnie Manufacturing with his father in 1967. At its height, Ronnie employed 350 people. It is named for his wife, Ronya. The business faltered in the 1980s due to competition from other regions within the United States and offshore.
Jeffrey joined the business in the 1990s, but garment manufacturing was winding down in New England. Ronnie Manufacturing closed in 1994, but its small apparel repair business served as a model for Jeffrey to start Darn It! Inc.
In addition to apparel refurbishment, Darn It! has two other business lines: warehousing-distribution and an embroidery department.
“We sell space and labor,” Jeffrey Glassman said. “Our edge is our employees and our knowledge of the business.” Some employees at Darn It! Inc. have been with the Glassmans since Ronnie Manufacturing — more than 30 years.
Jeffrey said he anticipates hiring additional employees to support the company’s growth and its new operations in the Belleville Avenue building, as soon as September. He said Darn It! Inc. has two new customers already on board. He said the company has benefitted from the Internet and advertises online and through direct mail. Networking through existing customers is actually the most effective method, he said.
As for selecting the new building, Jeffrey Glassman said that, as the business grew and he weighed his options, he realized it was essential to remain in New Bedford to remain close to the current employees. He also had praise for Matthew A. Morrissey and the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
Jeffrey said he had spent two years weighing how he would deal with his need for more space and credited Mr. Morrissey with helping to convince him to invest in his own building.
Mr. Morrissey said Darn It! is a story about a family’s ties to doing business in New Bedford and globally.
“We have to work hard to support our existing businesses and help them grow, while at the same time developing a climate that attracts new businesses and jobs,” Mr. Morrissey said. “The Glassmans and their employees are a real example of what exists — New Bedford works for business.”
Contact Joe Cohen at jcohen@s-t.com
August 14, 2008
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080814/NEWS/808140339

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