Reprinted from SouthCoast Today
Jeff Glassman enjoys saying yes to others. Even when his brain is telling him that a problem is too difficult to take on, the word, ‘yes’ still comes out of his mouth, he said. But the New Bedford CEO is not complaining. Years of saying ‘yes’ has led to his company’s growth as a well-known problem solver, first in the textile industry, and now also in the electronics field as well as jewelry and other hard goods.
In recent years, Glassman responded with his trademark response to a request to ship the product he had just fixed for a manufacturer and soon had created a warehousing and distribution arm to the North End business. It was one more decision that has kept Darn It!, once a traditional 20th century textile manufacturer, adapting and growing in a city where so many textile companies disappeared.
Q: Your business began to recover when the company moved from manufacturing apparel to servicing other companies’ clothing and goods. How has that shift continued to influence the business’ evolution?
A: Customers of ours who were making their product outside of the country found problems with their finished goods when they arrived back here in the USA. These customers were faced with a major problem. They had to move these goods to the store shelves quickly but couldn’t as there were quality issues that needed to be resolved first. There was no time to send them back to the foreign country to get them fixed. They needed a solution in the States. Therefore, they asked us to fix these problems for them. Since then, we have become a service business more than a manufacturing one. Our initial focus had been refurbishment of clothing, but over the last 12 years we have diversified into other soft and hard goods such as shoes, jewelry, and electronics.
You never know in my business what problems our customers will bring to our doorstep. Our tagline is, ‘Your problem is our business.’ But we don’t know what the problem is until it arises. That makes us flexible and is the key to our business. There are now two arms of the business, refurbishment which includes repair and quality control, and a warehouse and distribution arm. Warehousing & distribution is also for more than just apparel. It can range from the local fishing industry needing a home for their dry goods to wholesalers and importers needing space for product to fulfill orders for their watches or hats. It began as an offshoot of the refurbishment business. When large shipments came in customers asked us to fix the shipment, then they asked us to distribute it for them. That’s how we got started storing and distributing goods for customers.
Q: How does having a local workforce that once manufactured apparel help you succeed in your current line of business?
A: When we transitioned to the service business, we were very lucky to retain so many of our manufacturing employees. These employees have the necessary skill set and are cross-trained on many different operations when it comes to the apparel quality control and repair business. We stand above many other competitors because our staff had been in the clothing manufacturing business for many years and can spot issues quickly. These employees, over the past 18 years, have learned many other skills when it comes to inspecting other types of product that comes in the door. The local workforce in New Bedford has always been strong. Back in the early late 1990s and early 2000’s, we were asked by many companies why we don’t move our business closer to the Boston area which would be closer to them. Of course I said no, as my business would not exist today without this group of dedicated employees.
Q: Is your business growing?
A: We hope to announce an expansion of the business over the next few months. We’re constantly evolving both in warehouse & distribution and repair to the point where we are actively looking for additional space in the city. Once again, we want to remain in the city because of the workforce and because of real estate values here. We bought the building we’re in now in 2008. It is a 315,000 square-foot space on Belleville Avenue. We’ve refurbished the entire building, gutted it, painted the interior, and done many improvements to the exterior. In 2011, we put a large solar system on the roof to defray costs. We have about 12 tenants in the building including two clothing startups, a few artist studios and others. We have a nice little community here and refer business to each other.
Q: You were working with your dad before Darn It! officially became a repair and refurbishment business. You seem to have very different approaches to business, but also work well together. How have you managed that?
A: My Dad, Norm Glassman, had been in the manufacturing business for 35 years and had over 300 employees in the 1980’s and 1990’s. When I came into the business my dad thought we would make a good combination as he really liked my entrepreneurial spirit. He thought I could help market and grow his business at that time. Unfortunately, soon after the NAFTA agreement was signed in 1993, our customers started testing the waters in Mexico and Central America with production. We then saw the writing on the wall in regards to the manufacturing businesses in the USA. At that time, I was ready to pursue a career in finance until one of our customers came to us with a problem he had while producing product in Mexico. As a result of our doing this one large project for him, I decided to stick around and start Darn It!
My Dad was thrilled that I was going to stick around and he saw it as an opportunity to put that entrepreneurial spirit to work pharmacy levitra. He’s still part of the business and helps in many ways. He’s a great sounding board and we talk 2 to 4 times a day about current issues and future projects. He’s handles the behind the scenes finances for the business year round, and helps out in many other areas including production when he’s back in New Bedford over the summer.
He’s always been the voice of reason for the business. When customers ask us to take on their problems, even if it’s something new and different, I am always the one to say “Yes”. He is usually the one who helps me look at all angles of the project and work through the details.