Outlook 2022: Newberry Knitting has used simple approach for more than 75 years of success

Longtime employee Fazeela Azeembaksh works inside Newberry Knitting’s facility on Curry Road in Rotterdam.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Longtime employee Fazeela Azeembaksh works inside Newberry Knitting’s facility on Curry Road in Rotterdam.

ROTTERDAM — Some of the gloves made at Newberry Knitting Co. have far to travel, with some bound for sellers as far away as South Korea.

Others don’t have quite as far to go, as plenty of knitwear bearing the Newberry logo can be found on the hands and heads of Capital Region residents.

The 76-year-old business is located on Curry Road with a campus of two whitewashed buildings, one housing a cozy store and the other featuring a near-constant whir of sewing machines.

On an average day, owner Nancy Newberry can be found doing everything from sweeping floors to trimming gloves to selling scarves and taking orders.

She grew up around the glove business: Her father, Earl Noone, owned a glove/tanning company in Johnstown. She remembers when James “Fred” Newberry, who started Newberry Knitting, would come to visit her father and chat about gloves.

“My mother would have coffee and, you know, maybe doughuts … and I can remember that as a little kid — Saturday morning, Newberry came,” Nancy Newberry said.

Eventually she met Fred’s son, Arthur, and the two later married. But her early working years were spent at the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington, D.C. Looking back, she’s still not entirely sure how she landed the job.

“I think the teachers at school knew I needed to go to college. I needed to do something,” Newberry said.

However, college wasn’t in the cards at the time, so instead she spent more than three years working in secretarial positions at the FBI.

Once she returned to the Capital Region, she met and later married Arthur, who took over Newberry Knitting in 1969. They ran the company together for years until he died in 2013 at age 77.

Today, Newberry runs the company with help from General Manager Chris Egnor, who started working there 29 years ago.

“He came in sweeping floors,” Newberry said. “We had somebody hired [already] and Art said to me, ‘I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve got to hire this guy.’ And I said, ‘Well you’ve got to hire whoever you think,’ and if anybody learned from the bottom up … [it’s Chris].”

More Outlook 2022 – Spotlighting businesses around the Schenectady area

Today, a lean crew of fewer than 10 employees handles the manufacturing process, including sewing buttons, trimming excess yarn, washing, drying and more.

One employee, Fazeela Azeembaksh, has been with the company for 15 years after she moved to Schenectady from Guyana. Each day she works at several different stations, sometimes repairing gloves with tears or loose buttons, other times bagging finished ones.

Everyone chips in wherever they’re needed to get orders out on time. Together they produce anywhere from 500,000 to 600,000 pairs of gloves every year.

“Right now we have the capabilities that we could produce as many as 12,000 pairs a week,” Egnor said.

That’s in part thanks to electronic Shima Seiki knitting machines, which were manufactured in the 1980s and 1990s.

Newberry started using them about 15 years ago. Roughly a dozen of them chug along six days a week, transforming American-made yarn from companies such as S&D Spinning Mill in Massachusetts and Kraemer Textiles in Pennsylvania into military gloves or mittens, glove liners, hats, and more.

Since the pandemic began, Newberry has had to work with a much leaner crew, which has presented quite a few challenges.

“Now I’m a full-time factory worker because we’re very short-staffed. People do not want to work,” Newberry said.

“Then the situation with supplies, getting supplies in, is what’s really [tough],” Egnor added. “It all started with the pandemic.”

Orders slowed at the start of the pandemic but have remained steady in the past year. In January, the company was working on an order of 15,000 gloves for a South Korean seller with a six- to eight-month lead time, on top of several other orders from American-based companies.

It’s a lot to keep up with, especially the shop, which Newberry runs. She sells their gloves, socks, hats and scarves at a fraction of the retail price.

Even the most expensive gloves — lined and with deerskin leather — come in under $40.

Recently, Newberry put several lines of vintage Lake Placid Olympic hats on sale, alongside a few others from that era. She also happily mentioned that leg warmers are coming back,

“I’m not in this to get rich. We’re making gloves. That’s it,” Newberry said.

Newberry Knitting
Where: 1420 Curry Road, Schenectady
Founded: 1946 by James “Fred” Newberry
Owner: Nancy Newberry
Output: Between 500,000 and 600,000 pairs of gloves each year; select pairs for sale at the shop
Biggest challenges: Yarn supplies and low staffing levels

More Outlook 2022 – Spotlighting businesses around the Schenectady area

Categories: Business, Outlook 2022, Rotterdam

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