Stafford celebrates rebirth of historic textile mill [Journal Inquirer]

September 19, 2014

‘What we have here is a craft’

By Gayla M. Cawley
Journal Inquirer

STAFFORD — Town and state officials, local residents, and workers at the American Woolen Warren Mill came together at the mill Wednesday to celebrate the launch of the rejuvenated business over cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Jacob Harrison Long, CEO of American Woolen, bought the 161-year-old mill, formerly known as the Warren Corp. textile mill, in June, after Warren decided to close it.

It is Stafford’s only surviving textile mill.

“It’s been good,” Long said. “We’ve only been doing this for a few months. The town of Stafford Springs wants the mill to be open.”

Long said he has been selectively hiring back employees who were laid off when the mill was set to close. He said three more employees were brought on Wednesday to bring the mill’s workforce to 26.

In the meantime, employees are wearing many hats and multi-tasking, Long said.

“Textile manufacturing can exist in America,” Long said. “At one time, it thrived. America was the leader in textile manufacturing for 50 years. Now, there’s only a few mills left.”

Kliton Shquina, 43, an operations manager with the mill, said he had worked there under prior owners for 18 years when he was laid off at the beginning of the year. American Woolen hired him back in June when the company was putting together its management team.

“It is important to come back to the mill,” Shquina said. “I think it is a business that has a lot of potential. It’s a unique business. What we have here is a craft.”

Shquina said he is a textile engineer by profession and puts those skills to use at the mill. He said coming back to work at the mill wasn’t a tough decision.

“A mill in Stafford Springs that can produce fine worsted fabric — it is too much to go to waste,” Shquina said.

The textiles the mill produces include cashmere, camel hair, silk, and worsted wool.

Jennifer Knight, American Woolen’s president, said the company has just begun placing its first sample orders with customers. She said those customers include several major menswear brands.

“Things are going well,” Knight said.

Sen. Tony Guglielmo R-Stafford said he was “very excited” when the mill was saved.

“This company and its ancestors have been part of the town for many years,” Guglielmo said.

He said the possibility that the mill would close was “a real blow to the community.”

Guglielmo said the workers at the mill are dedicated to what they do. He said he has heard no negative feedback since the mill re-opened.

First Selectman Richard Shuck called the progress at the mill “wonderful.”

“Jacob’s got a lot of ambition and a lot of positive energy,” Shuck said of Long. “I still believe success breeds success. It’s important to come out and show our support.”

The Warren Mill was a subsidiary of Italian clothier Loro Piano for 25 years. Before American Woolen bought it, the mill was to close its doors for good in June.

Long said in June that his hope is to make American Woolen “America’s premier supplier of worsted and woolen fabrics.”