MADE IN AMERICA
MONTGOMERY – Tenacity, hard work, and the only thing he has ever known are what keep Mark Dorman and Valley Braid Works producing an extensive collection of braids and trims that are made exclusively here in America. In fact, according to Dorman, his company is the only one remaining of this type that manufactures specialty braids, fringes, and trims. Known for a variety of rick-racks, many are sold in large fabric department stores such as Jo-Ann’s and WalMart.
Dorman relocated his company to Montgomery on Miller Ave. in 2006 from Cogan Station. “We outgrew the space,” Dorman said referring to the 8,000 square foot former building. “We now occupy 40,000 square feet and three floors.” He said it took six months and 37 tractor trailers to move 400 braid machines weighing 650 pounds each. Ironically, he ended up in the building owned by a former employer.
Dorman began his career in the industry after high school in the mid 70’s working at Trimtex in Williamsport. Shortly afterwards he went to Lycoming Braided Fabrics where he worked for 25 years. The plant closed in 2006. “There were many owners over the years. Buy out after buy out,” he said referring to the textile mill which began in the early 1940’s. “The company was owned by Simpilcity for about 8 years then bought out by Lending Textile in Montgomery,” he added. As a buyer in the New York garment district, he knew his clients, he knew the manufacturing and he knew the production. When Trimtex and Lending Textile decided to close their plants, Dorman decided to start his own business. “I didn’t want our customers to be stuck buying inferior products overseas,” he commented. So he took a chance starting out with 30 small braid machines. “We had to start from scratch.” For all existing machinery from the former mills had to be turned into certified scrap metals, eventually to be recycled for new machinery. “This was to eliminate all competition here in the United States,” declared Dorman who knew the business inside and out having spent the last 35 years as a designer for braids and trims.
With only 7 full time employees, his overhead is under constant scrutiny. “India and China are the big producers, but we can do it much better and quicker. The garment district is still large, and still a lot of exporting.”
The company acknowledges its claim to fame when they received a request for specialty fringes on ABC’s Dancing With The Stars two seasons ago for their costumes. “There’s something different every day,” exclaimed Dorman.
The United States Air Force is currently using corded seams on their military uniforms, and the company is also making special braided hat trims in gold for the Columbian Air Force in South America. “Samples were sent to us to establish a style.” Dorman explained that they do custom work which comes from massive collections, anywhere from ten to fifteen thousands of different styles of trims such as fringes, threads, knits, silks, braids, cords, jutes. Jo-Ann Fabrics is one of their biggest suppliers and requests much of their rick-rack. For the past six weeks, the red jumbo rick-rack has been a best seller. Dorman also stated that they do a lot of trims for caskets, specialty cords for upholstery pieces, but mostly stick to the apparel business.
All are custom cataloged through Valley Braid Works and an outlet store that is located in a re-furbished 1950’s train car. It sits in front of the property and is open to the public during the same hours as the manufacturing plant. The store opened in February.
Today many of the trims and braids made here are shipped around the world. “We just finished matching a special black dye for a trim that will be going to Turkey,” Dorman said. The company makes laces, fringes, sequins, twisted cords, rick-rack, and product lines seldom seen elsewhere. “Jute is one of our best sellers. We buy 2,000 pound pallets by the raw material, then turn it into jute braid,” he said.
They are also stitching together shell braids for a product line in New England that will go on 900 sweaters. Elastic cord is also made at Valley Braid Works for the guard uniforms at the Muncy Prison. Their product line is extensive with every color and pigment imaginable which include gold and copper trims, chenilles, and remarkably, trims that glow in the dark. “We even make trims for women’s shoes.”
The machinery is unique. Dorman searched all over the east coast for the machines which were made in the 1880’s. “They very seldom break down,” Dorman said. “There are hand cut gears on all the machines. They were well made back then. We just give them a shot of oil once a week.” The lower level is devoted to the knitting machines which are used to make the fringes and more of the fancier items. “What you can make on these is just endless,” Dorman said pointing to the machinery. The company gets special requests for bridal trims, costumes, gimp, and glitzy knits. “We’re still building and expanding,” Dorman added. “I still have another braid table to assemble to get up and running.”
There is no doubt, with all of his hard work and extra hours and the employees who help him, Dorman is proud to say that everything is made in the USA.