Why Chicago still makes sense?

I’ve often pondered and more often asked by prospects and customers why we choose Chicago for our sewing facility. Well, the simple reason would be that the company founders chose it, all the way back in 1921. But many things have changed since then, and it’s worth discussing why it still makes sense today.

Co-location with your customers is ideal for almost any business. But for us, we have a widely-dispersed national customer base. In fact, many of them are on the coasts: California, Florida, Virginia, Washington, the list goes on…Meanwhile, we’re sitting right smack in the middle. As it turns out, the numbers of customers on the east and west coasts have remained relatively balanced. If we were to shift to one coast, we would be at a significant coast disadvantage trying to serve the other. So we’re making a cognizant compromise to appeal to both. Consequently, we try to make up for any difference by running a tight ship. Fixed costs are maintained low so we can ride the ebbs and flows of a made-to-order business.

But in reality, why would a California customer chose us over someone in their backyard? Well, several do and here’s why. Just like our founders played a big role in our location, the birth and formation of the US textile industry on the East Coast has a lot to do with it.

The portfolio of raw goods that we work with are not freight-friendly (unless you’re the freight company, I guess). It’s expensive to ship heavy, oversize rolls of nylon, canvas, webbing, and foam. Assuming a Berry compliant product, chances are a West Coast cut and sew shop is ordering their materials from a mill in North Carolina, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Georgia, etc. That’s a long way to ship bulky goods. Being here in Chicago, it’is a much shorter trip. We take those bulky goods, convert them into compactible soft goods and ship them the rest of the way in their new form. Essentially, it helps level the playing field with our West Coast competitors. At the same time, you can see it puts a West coast competitor at a significant disadvantage if the ship-to address for the finished goods are back East

Having said all of that, we’re not in a commodity business. By definition, a sewn product is a hand made product. The level of craftsmanship displayed in the sewing plays the biggest part. And that’s clearly an advantage of being in business for over 80 years. Yet, I’m always asked price first. That’s a discussion for another post sometime. Have a great day!

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