Deciding to produce Lime & Leaf products in the United States really wasn’t a decision at all. We truly never considered an alternative. Partially, that was out of blissful ignorance—we had no intimate knowledge of the manufacturing industry and no concept of how much hard work it takes. Even if we had been more aware of the challenges—as we certainly are now—we wouldn’t have done anything differently.
People like Jack Miller are the reason why.
A veritable historian of the textile industry, Jack has worked in manufacturing since he graduated from college in 1982. At that time, as Jack explains it, the textile industry in Greenville, South Carolina was booming. Working in a mill was “just kind of what everybody did.” The mills in town were more than just a place to work—they were a part of the community. Softball games between mills were big, Greenville still held an annual mill Textile Basketball tournament, and jobs were readily available. The industry was strong. Sheeting, which was the majority of business in Jack’s career, helped Greenville earn the title of “Textile Center of the World.”
In the mid-90s, everything changed. “All the big vertical mills raced overseas,” Jack explains. “When everything fell out there were just a few smaller, well funded mills left.”
He describes it as a horrific time, but even as he does, it’s without any of the bitterness or anger you might expect. Rather than dwelling on what has already happened—what can’t be changed—Jack is much more eager to talk about what’s going on in the industry now, and how the mills that are still around did manage to survive.
“For years there was a huge chicken-egg scenario where people wanted a high-quality, USA-made product, but the product didn’t exist. We had so many people talk about it, but when it comes down to putting the money on the line, it’s a whole different game.”
Always up for a good leap into the abyss, we decided that Lime and Leaf would take the risk. We believed in what Jack was saying—that people did want a high-end product made entirely in the United States, and were just waiting for someone to invest in creating it. Jack knew, and was willing to show us, that some of the finest manufacturing facilities in the world exist here, in our country. Working with him, we established a supply chain that we’re proud of— cotton grown in California, spun in Georgia, and woven in South Carolina—and a product that we can’t wait to share.
“It took guts,” Jack says of our decision, which sounds like a euphemism for mild insanity, but we’ll take it. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, but you invested in a made in the USA, high-end sheeting product. You could go overseas and create a product for 1/100thof the effort that it took to make this package. You’re not doing it this way because it’s cheaper, you’re not doing it this way because it’s easier, you're doing it because it yields a high quality product that you can proudly say was made in the USA. Programs like this solidify the base of what we’re trying to do.”
Jack Miller is a Partner at Sustaintex LLC, a full package textile group focusing on sustainable fibers, fabrics and manufacturing practices. Together with him, we made it through an uncountable number of growing pains as we were manufacturing products for Lime and Leaf, and we couldn’t be more grateful.