Galey & Lord closing

Galey Lord logo

By Jana E. Pye, Editor,

News travels fast when you live in a tiny town, and certainly the closing of the once bustling apparel finishing plant in Society Hill has reverberated across town.

The plant notified the roughly 120 employees and the town’s mayor, Tommy Bradshaw, that they plan to close their doors at the end of May.

“I received a letter dated March 29, 2016 from Pilar Charo, CEO of Galey & Lord Industries stating that the plant would close permanently by May 12,” said Bradshaw. “They did not give a reason, however there has been rumors for a very long time that this day would come. However, I remain hopeful that after a brief closure the plant will be bought out by another interested company, performing the same functions as presently ongoing.”

Bradshaw recalls a time when the plant was bustling:
“It has been a source of jobs for half a century, and from a small boy I remember the excitement that surrounded the coming of the gigantic factory. It really gave Society Hill that shot in the arm economically that survived a long time. But, like I said, the town stands ready to do anything it can to assist in re-establishing the jobs lost and remains hopeful that there is a smooth transition to another employer.”

Residents are in hopes that the plant, located in the heart of the town on 670 N Main Street, will be purchased by another company and be operational once more.

Charlene McDonnough, branch manager for the Society Hill Library, shared that the library is a great place to come look for and apply for jobs online. “If they need to update their work keys certifications they can sign up for our GED/Work Keys classes,” she said. “If they need to update their resumes or create a new one, staff is ready and willing to help them.”

According to records found by Brian Gandy, Director of the Darlington County Historical Commission, this is not the first time the plant has threatened to close; a letter dated April 22, 1997 from Horace Rudisell, the Galey & Lord plant announced a closing in the summer of 1995.

Further research unearthed a news story from May 27, 1976, that shared more of the history of the plant:
The plant was originally built in 1965, the Burlington Industries’ Klopman Mills division began their first production in May, 1966.

A specialty finishing plant was built in 1969 adjacent to the original plant, followed by three more expansions.

In 1976, the complex had grown from an initial 370,000 square feet of floor space to over 700,000 square feet. At that time, 1400 people from Darlington, Chesterfield, and Marlboro counties were employed at the plant.

At that time, the finishing plant specialized in finishing Dacron-cotton blends and suraline fabrics for the apparel market, and the specialty finishing plant printed a wide variety of double knits, single knits, warp knits and woven blends of fabrics.

In 1989, Burlington sold the Society Hill plant to Galey & Lord, a company founded in 1886 and noted for introducing the first khaki to the world of apparel, starting with their Cramerton Army Cloth, originally used by the American military services starting in the 1930’s. The company recently introduced new vintage-style denim called “Soldier Denim” – piece dyed cotton.

Author: Jana Pye

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