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Another textile company is moving, but this one is staying in Burlington

A decades-old hosiery business in Burlington is about to get a new home, along with a new lease on life, amid plans to convert its historic location on Webb Avenue into a set of loft-style apartments.

The Cranford Group Holdings, which recently purchased Burlington-based Pickett Hosiery Mills, has announced its intention to relocate the textile company from its current digs at 741 East Webb Avenue to a now-vacant facility that Holt Hosiery once operated at 733 Koury Drive, also in Burlington.

The former Holt Hosiery Mills finishing plant at 733 Koury Drive will become Pickett Hosiery’s new home later this year, according to its new owners.

Pickett Hosiery was founded in 1927 and was purchased by the family of Nimrod “Nim” Harris in 1971.  The company has occupied the historic Webb Avenue building since 1983.

The Pickett Hosiery Mills building, at 741 East Webb Avenue, was originally built in 1906 for Aurora Cotton Mills.  Earlier this year, Burlington’s city council gave the mill building a local historic designation in preparation for its conversion into 85 to 90 apartments.

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In a news release about Pickett’s forthcoming move, the Cranford Group underscored its plans to transfer the company’s entire 52-member workforce to the new site, where it intends to “streamline” Pickett’s existing operations in anticipation of “additional growth opportunities” on the horizon.

“I’m a big believer in ‘Made in America. I believe that too many [American] textile companies gave up too early. . .we want to acquire other companies whose owners are looking to retire, and we’re looking to consolidate these hosiery businesses, using Pickett[’s new home] as a base.” – Larry K. Small, new CEO of Pickett Hosiery

Larry K. Small, a long-time textile executive from Elon who is slated to take over as Pickett’s new CEO, said in an interview with The Alamance News this week that he and his colleagues envision the mill’s relocation as the first step in creating a vibrant new hub for the domestic textile industry within Alamance County.

Larry K. Small, new CEO of Pickett Hosiery

“I’m a big believer in ‘Made in America,’” Small said in an interview earlier this week. “I believe that too many [American] textile companies gave up too early… we want to acquire other companies whose owners are looking to retire, and we’re looking to consolidate these hosiery businesses, using Pickett[’s new home] as a base.”

As the Cranford Group unspools its plans for Pickett’s relocation, the preparations are already underway for a multimillion-dollar venture that promises to transform the mill’s current headquarters into a collection of 85 to 90 loft-style apartments.

The brainchild of Clachan Properties, which recently completed a similar conversion of the May Hosiery plant in downtown Burlington, the proposed redevelopment of Pickett’s traditional haunt got a bit of a boost in July when Burlington’s city council agreed to designate the site as a local historic landmark. Since then, Clachan been trying to rack up the state and federal tax credits that it will ultimately need to pay for the mill’s metamorphosis.

As Clachan presses ahead with its fund raising efforts, the clock has been ticking for Cranford to relocate the mill’s operations to its new home along Koury Drive.

According to Rob Norris with Cardinal Business Brokers, which helped Cranford sew up its acquisition of Pickett’s manufacturing operations, the holding company’s plan is to consummate the business’s relocation some time later this fall.

“It’s a huge undertaking to transfer a hosiery entity like Pickett,” Norris explained in an interview. “But their target is to complete the transfer by November 30.”

In the meantime, Small said he sees several reasons to be optimistic about the future of Pickett’s operations once they’re comfortably settled along Koury Drive.

The company’s new CEO noted, for instance, that the increasing cost of freight out of Asia has given domestic textile firms an increasing advantage in the consumer market. In the meantime, he pointed to the potential for additional growth in government contracts, like those which Pickett already holds to make socks for the U.S. military.

Small said that Pickett’s success in its new location will ultimately allow the Cranford Group to patch together similar proposals to salvage some of North Carolina’s other legacy textile makers.

The new head of Pickett acknowledged that Cranford is already discussing with the owners of other hosiery mills about the potential purchase of their operations. Small said that, when whenever possible, he and his colleagues, will preserve the knitting operations of the mills they acquire in their present locations, although he added that this still leaves the possibility open for their finishing work to take place at Pickett’s new home.

“The plant has more capacity for finishing than knitting,” he went on to elaborate. “But our whole goal is to accommodate workers where they currently are.”

See earlier coverage on the historic designation for the current building, built in 1906 as Aurora Cotton Mill and now slated to be converted into loft apartments similar to the recent conversion of May Hosiery Mill in downtown Burlington:


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