FALL RIVER – The next wave of textile manufacturing is building now.
The Merrow companies are ready to ride it, Charlie Merrow said.
Merrow and his brother, Owen Merrow, own Merrow Manufacturing, Merrow Sewing and operate a workforce development training program at 502 Bedford St. in Fall River
The company held an employee meeting recently to announce Merrow purchased the company home, a 5-story granite mill building.
One of the city’s historic mills will be part of its future, Charlie Merrow promised.
The future for textile manufacturers in the United States, Charlie Merrow said, will be to build technology into clothing.
“We are going to build technical softgoods and introduce instrumentation,” he said. “We’ll build a softgood product and add technology to it.”
He gave the example of a soft gun case that would send a message to a smart phone whenever someone tries to open it. That would be especially important for a home with children.
“This is happening and it is going to happen in Southeastern Massachusetts because we have the people, the leaders and the technology to do it,” Merrow said.
It would also allow firefighters to wear clothing that will broadcast information such as their body temperature and exact location. It would also raise alarms if they stop moving. The same could be done for athletic gear or hikers’ clothing.
The Merrow designers have met with software developers at MIT, Bristol Community College and UMass Dartmouth to get a clear idea of how the industry will develop in the next few years and to work with them on new designs.
“We have the best cutters and sewers right here,” Charlie Merrow. “What better place to do this.”
Merrow Manufacturing was founded in Hartford, Connecticut in 1838 by Joseph Merrow. He produced gunpowder. When his business blew up, literally, he decided knitting machines were a safer idea. He came up with a machine that made better socks.
Owen and Charlie Merrow, seven generations later, purchased the company in 2004 and moved it to Fall River in 2008. It has been growing since.
The company developed new industrial sewing machines and opened a contract sewing shop that produces everything from lingerie to sniper suits, Charlie Merrow said.
They started two companies, one to produce high functioning athletic wear and another to produce small lights for joggers, hikers or pets.
They have also branded software they developed to help run their business.
His sewing crew can make anything, which allows the company to think about the future, Charlie Merrow said.
One employee is Leonor Almeida, who began working in the building 26 years ago, first with Griffin Manufacturing and then with Merrow when Merrow took over Griffin’s contracts and employees.
The Merrow brothers had to work for more than a year to buy the building after the parent company of Griffin Manufacturing went bankrupt.
“For a long time, we didn’t know if tomorrow we would be here,” Almeida said. “I love it. I’m so happy today. What a relief.”
Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II was at the announcement at company headquarters.
“This is something we need to invest in,” Correia said. “This is not part of a dying industry.
“Merrow wanted to be here. The talent is here, the people who work here.”
Purchasing the building will allow Merrow to grow and become a leader in technology-loaded clothing and other softgoods, Charlie Merrow said.
“This is just the beginning for a 180-year-old company,” he said.