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The Art of Being Comfy & Cozy

Mar 08, 2017
The Art of Being Comfy & Cozy

An Interview with George Bollenbach of George Bollenbach Co.  

We recently had the chance to talk to George Bollenbach, third generation owner of George Bollenbach Co., to discover his fascinating business history.

George shared a very visual walkthrough of the last hundred years in the textile industry and how he and his family played a role in it. Through the twists and turns of the twentieth century, George Bollenbach Co. twisted and turned as well, adapting to ever-changing markets and to the needs of customers while holding fast to the quality commitment upon which the business was based. 

Lime & Leaf relentlessly pursues excellence and craftsmanship in everything we do, which is why George Bollenbach Co. is our go-to supplier for our beautiful blankets and throws, and as always, we know we are in good hands…

 

Lime & Leaf:

We were told the company was started by your grandfather in 1913. Will you take us back in time and tell us how it all came about? 

George Bollenbach:

Happy to do so – it’s an amazing story. My family came to the United States at the turn of the century from Austria. As a very young man, my grandfather started the company in 1913 in Brooklyn, New York, as a knitting company and mill. We specialized in knitting fabrics that were then made into sweaters. We actually stayed in the sweater business until 2000. 

 

Lime & Leaf:

Wow, that is amazing! We know you’re now in Lyndhurst, NJ, instead of Brooklyn. Why did the business move away from New York? 

George Bollenbach: 

As the company grew, we simply needed more space – and found it in New Jersey. We grew to two facilities after the company was moved. Through the years, we maintained an older one primarily used for shipping product, and the newer one, from the 1970s to 2000, was for making our product. In the end, we moved everything to Lyndhurst, where we are today.

  

Lime & Leaf:

After such a long history in the sweater business, does the company still produce product in this category?

George Bollenbach:

No. It’s an interesting thing – knitting of sweater fabric moved largely to Asia in the 1990s, and at the same time, the popularity of sweaters dropped off sharply in the United States with the invention of fleece fabrics and shifts in fashion trends. As a result of such a dramatic downturn in this arena, we shifted toward blankets and throws, the business we are in now.

 

Lime & Leaf:

How did you choose blankets and throws as a category?

George Bollenbach:

Good question! We have been in business since 1913, and through four generations. The value in that is being close to the industry and seeing what’s happening, where trends are, and where they are not. Our shift toward blankets and throws was a fortunate and almost instinctive business decision to fill a void. We are great at knitting fabrics, and we understand the technical aspects that enable us to make a beautiful and quality product. It didn’t take long for the word to get around and for customers to come, and we are happy about that.

 

Lime & Leaf:

We agree – the quality of your products is simply outstanding. We also think it’s interesting that George Bollenbach Co. has continually embraced state-of-the-art technology in its manufacturing processes, enabling you to create remarkable products that are difficult to obtain otherwise.

George Bollenbach:

Thank you. One thing we have learned in all these years is that manufacturing techniques and tools are always changing - and to stay in front of these changes is crucial. Because we have evolved for decades in this direction, we use state-of-the-art electronic equipment to produce everything we make, having left the mechanical weaving machines behind years ago, long before most of our competitors did.

We shifted our business model as well. E-commerce is now the biggest part of our business. Because we can make individual throws and test out new designs, we have changed the entire model – enabling companies like Lime & Leaf to offer a plethora of unique patterns that keep product lines fresh and beautiful year round.

 

Lime & Leaf:

Is this the “norm” in the industry now? 

George Bollenbach:

Actually, there are very few firms left in the northeast that can do this. Decades ago in the United States there were literally hundreds of knitting mills; today, there are maybe ten left. We are very fortunate that we have a great customer base and over 100 years of knowledge to make beautiful products. 

 

Lime & Leaf:

Your company has a fascinating history, and we are delighted that its part of the American manufacturing landscape. One area that is important to us is the environment. Does George Bollenbach Co. have a point of view on such an important subject?

George Bollenbach:

Really glad you asked. Once again, our knowledge of the details of knitting and weaving, and the entire process of manufacturing, has really paid off. We are proud to share that we only use yarn that is recycled cotton from two manufacturers in the United States. The process for spinning this yarn is incredibly complex, but the results are both cost-effective and excellent for our environment. It’s truly a perfect example of a “win-win-win.” The customer gets a great product, everything is made here in the USA, and the environment benefits from the application of the recycled fiber, conserving land, water, and energy. 

 

Lime & Leaf:

If we were to take a “temperature check” of George Bollenbach Co. here in 2017, how would you say it feels being in business 104 years later?

George Bollenbach:

Today, we are happier than ever. We are delighted to have a business that is thriving and making customers happy. I feel that most importantly, if my grandfather were here today, he would approve and be proud of how his family has managed what he started so long ago in Brooklyn.

 

Lime & Leaf:

Thank you, George. As always, it’s great talking with you and sharing the expertise of you and George Bollenbach Co. with our customers.

 

To celebrate 104 YEARS OF AMERICAN CRAFTSMANSHIP for a limited time we are offering our throws at a special price of $104 - 30% off!  SHOP NOW!