SPARTANBURG — In a landscape dotted with massive crumbling relics of Spartanburg County’s textile heritage, it might seem impossible for a smaller outfit to beat the odds.
But Green Textile Associates Inc., which has been family-owned for four generations, has continued to thrive.
The company will celebrate its 76th anniversary this year.
“It’s about faith,” said John W. Simon, president of Green Textile. “It’s about counting your blessings and knowing where they come from. You have to work hard and treat people — your employees and your customers — with respect and dignity. I take a lot of pride in the fact that my family has been here so long. It boils down to being a good steward of what I’ve been given.”
The company was founded in October 1938 by Simon’s great grandfather Sydney R. Green in Boston.
In November 1938, Green Textile received its charter to conduct business in South Carolina.
Green, who had five daughters, passed the executive leadership duties on to his son-in-law, Maurice J. Simon, Simon’s grandfather, in 1952.
Simon’s father, John S. Simon, who is now 75, served as president of the company from 1984 to 2001. The younger Simon became president in 2001.
Green Textile originally processed spinning mill waste for manufacturers, including Spartan Mills, Mayfair Mills and various other companies.
Simon said Green Textile’s Spartanburg operation continued to expand through the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, as the company began moving into the double-knit polyester and finishing business.
The company has since evolved, developing the capability to produce its own fabrics.
It currently produces materials that span the apparel, home textile, industrial and medical industries. Green Textile also has carved out a niche with its organic cotton and fabrics made from other eco-friendly materials, including recycled polyester, bamboo, hemp, Modal and Tencel.
Simon said Green Textile’s business is up 21 percent compared to 2012. The company has more than 100 employees and nearly 350,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space at its headquarters in Spartanburg and two North Carolina facilities.
“I’m still very bullish about the specialty textile business,” Simon said.
While in the old days it may have been a disadvantage to be a small company, Simon said that was actually the company’s saving grace when the bottom fell out of the local textile industry.
“We never chased the commodities business,” Simon said. “We were very blessed with that. Being a small manufacturer actually became an advantage.”
He said the company continued to grow by filling a need in the high-end specialty market for smaller volume orders, quick lead times and high quality products and processes.
“You have to be very agile in order to stay in the game,” said John S. Simon. “Nothing is going to last forever.”
The company is heavily into research and development. Employees produce one or more new fabrics per day, and at least 350 new fabrics per year. Green Textile has more than 700 sample fabrics on hand at its Spartanburg plant.
Simon said he believes the company’s true strength lies in its foundation principles that include faith, family, hard work, no debt, giving back and treating others well.
“We try to embody traditional American values that seem to have gone by the wayside in today’s society,” Simon said. “You can’t make bad decisions and expect God to take care of you. I think we’ve done all of the things we need to that allow those blessings to be received.”
Recently, the company has teamed up with one of its customers, footwear giant New Balance, to close a loophole in the Berry Amendment that would specify the U.S. government must provide American-made athletic shoes to new service members.
The Berry Amendment, passed in 1941, requires the Department of Defense to procure goods from domestic sources in order to protect military supply and benefit the American industrial base, especially during times of war.
The amendment applies to food, uniforms, textiles, specialty metals and other items, but not athletic shoes.
Green Textile produces fabric for the tongue, eye row and linings for a version of New Balance’s 950, a Berry Amendment-compliant sneaker made entirely from products made in the U.S.
“Green Textiles is an important and valued partner in our quest to get the military to comply with the law and spirit of the Berry Amendment,” said Matt LeBretton, director of public affairs for New Balance, in a statement. “As the last remaining manufacturer of athletic shoes in the country, we need Green Textiles to continue its long tradition of excellence in manufacturing and are grateful to have them as our partner on this project.”
John S. Simon (left) was president of Green Textile until 2001, when son John W. Simon took the reins of the Upstate manufacturer. The younger Simon is the fourth generation of his family to run the company.×