Charles D. Owen III Retires From Namesake Company
By Staff -- Home Textiles Today, 9/4/2006 12:00:00 AM
Swannanoa, N.C. —
Marking the end of an era in the Southern textiles industry, and a tradition of family ownership or management that spans back more than a century, Charles D. Owen III resigned Friday, Aug. 25, as president of the Charles D. Owen blanket division of Springs Global.
Shortly after returning from safari in East Africa with his family, Owen resigned from the blanket manufacturing company that had been founded by his family in 1904 in New Bedford, Mass.
“It felt like it was time to go, and I'll take some time to think about what I'm going to do next. I'll be here for a little while longer, and give them any help I can. And then in the next couple of weeks I'll open an office down here.” Due to a non-compete clause in his contract with Springs Global, he will be barred from working in the industry for 17 months, he said. “And I'll honor that. It's the right thing to do.”
Succeeding Owen in an expanded role is Harvey Simon as president of basic bedding, a division which now includes blankets as well as the pillow and mattress pad unit he had led.
Owen is the last of a long line to manage the company founded by his family — early American settlers who arrived in America in 1651, journeying form Wales and settling in Providence, R.I. They launched Beacon Mfg. in 1904 with 20 workers, and by 1912 they employed 800. By 1919, it was the largest blanket manufacturing operation under one roof in the United States. In 1933, in what was then the largest rail migration of a company in U.S. history, the Beacon plant was taken apart, brick by brick, and moved to North Carolina, where it was reassembled.
The Owen family sold out to National Distillers in 1969, and the company was later sold to Cannon Mills and eventually Fieldcrest Cannon. But growing antsy, Charles D. Owen Jr., father of Charles III, founded a new company, Owen Mfg., which itself reclaimed the title of the nation's largest blanket producer until it was sold to Springs Global in 2002.
Charles D, Owen III had worked at his family's company since 1976. “My first summer job, at 16 years old, was shipping blankets to Kmart, and I worked there part time in the plant until I joined the company full time just out of college when I was 23.” Learning every aspect of the operation from the plant floor up, he became president when his father retired. When the company was sold to Springs Global, he stayed on out of a sense of responsibility, to help ease the transition for a workforce he largely knew by name.
In a memo to Springs Global workers, Springs exec vp sales and marketing Tom O'Connor said, “Charlie was instrumental in driving the integration of Charles D. Owen Company into Springs Global. We thank him for his service and wish him all the best. He has agreed to stay in close contact with the organization and will provide advice and expertise as needed.”
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