New Bedford Economic Development Council Staff
An “Extreme Makeover” of Ronnie Manufacturing in 1996 transformed the 35-year-old contract clothing business into a unique operation that solves quality control and logistical problems caused by offshore manufacturing.
Darn It! was created in response to a dilemma facing the 350-employee, family-owned plant: the wave of outsourcing that was draining the U.S. garment industry. “The old adage – ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,’ is fitting, according to Darn It! President Jeffrey Glassman.
Glassman and his father Norman made the bold decision to change the operation’s focus and the result today is a thriving, growing business with more than 120 employees occupying 140,000 square feet on 92 Harbor Street in New Bedford in the former Berkshire Hathaway mill complex.
Darn It!’s client list includes major retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers, importers, catalogue retailers and liquidation companies.
The idea for the business sprung up from the fact that many of their customers in the mid 1990s began sending their cut-and-sew productions offshore instead of to Ronnie Manufacturing, Glassman recalled. However, when the products came back to New England, they had quality problems ranging from poor stitching and packaging to incorrectly sewn labels.
“There was no time for them to send the products back to the original factory as their customers (the retailers) could possibly cancel the order if the delivery date was not met. So our old customers began sending their foreign made products to us to fix and refurbish for them. We would inspect, repair and send them the product back quickly so they could meet their delivery deadlines,” he explained.
Following lengthy marketing research, Glassman discovered that some large area retailers and manufacturers needed help with similar issues. The family closed the cut-and-sew operations to concentrate on the service business and hasn’t looked back.
“What really separates us from many competitors is that our employees possess the skills in manufacturing, quality control and warehousing that enable us to provide our customers with a quick turn around with the proper quality so that they can get their goods on to the selling shelves immediately,” he said.
Many staff members from Ronnie Manufacturing now work at Darn It! and participated in the transformation process.
“Reinventing a business like Darn It! that retains jobs and uses one of the city’s best assets – our mill space – is a critical piece in the overall revitalization of New Bedford,” said Matthew A. Morrissey, Executive Director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.
Darn It!’s slogan, “Your Problem is Our Business,” appropriately sums up the operation.
Examples of services include everything from garment repairs, alterations, button and snap replacements and trimming to dry cleaning and laundering, mold and mildew removal, spot cleaning and hem reinforcement to pressing, re-packaging and re-labeling.
The quality control services include inspections for fabric and product flaws and measurements.
Glassman added that the company has become a de-facto quality control/inspection department for many clients-receiving all their shipments to ensure that there are no problems before they proceed to distribution facilities.
“These are common problems-nothing major, but enough to make the products unsalable,” Glassman said. “Our clients depend on Darn It! as a quality control, problem solver.”
In addition, another portion of the business is devoted to warehouse and distribution. Numerous New England retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers use Darn It! as their distribution outsource center and for long or short term storage, returns processing and pick and pack/fulfillment.
October 12, 2007