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Sunbury looks to carve new niches

While jobbers and furniture manufacturers remain the core businesses for Sunbury Textile Mills, the newly independent decorative fabrics mill is targeting new and niche markets for growth.

Now owned by its key executives following the completion of the purchase from Lifestyle Furnishings International, "we see a tremendous opportunity going forward," said Hank Truslow IV, president and coo. "Our assets are service, extremely high quality and very high levels of styling and design."

The management sextet, headed by Truslow IV; Henry Truslow Sr., chairman and ceo; Rocco Simone, senior vp, sales and marketing; Mark Grigalunas, senior vp, styling/design; Jennifer Welge, vp, styling/design; and Brian Burke, vp, operations, acquired the approximately $50 million business last month.

Although best known for its jacquard designs for the jobber and furniture market, Sunbury has branched out into diverse fabric products such as Sunbrella for high-end jacquards in outdoor furniture and for its jobber base, Truslow said. "It's a tremendous partnership [with Glen Raven, which owns the Sunbrella acrylic brand].

"One of our biggest growth areas has been in the contract market, with Crypton as a key element," Truslow said. "We're selling these fabrics all over the world in contract and hospitality."

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, added Simone. "We have lots of tangent markets to explore with Crypton — luggage, dining room chairs and on. And there are so many new customers who weren't with us two years ago."

Simone continued, "Our key for growth is niche markets. They could be [of] million-dollar potential, but they will be dependent on styling, quality and delivery."

Another important part of the Sunbury game plan, said Simone, "is that we give exclusives to each customer. We're not a commodity house."

Discussing the impact of the Asian fabric producers on the American market, Simone said, "Our pillow, drapery and top-of-bed business was bigger than it is now. Now the business is offshore or in wide looms, which we don't have. But we still continue to have good business in the better top-of-bed and pillow segments."

Adding to that, Truslow said, "We feel like we're light-years ahead of the Asian producers in terms of product, quality and service. We always have to be on top of design and color. And we service a one-piece order as we do a big order — on time or sooner."

Design leadership ranks high in company priorities, Truslow said, and Grigalunas heads a department that is constantly expanding as markets grow.

"For every market we look at, we expand and grow our designers and have an incredible relationship with our design team," Grigalunas emphasized.

In addition, he explained, "We're always doing major research and development, constantly looking at new yarns." As a result the "new" Sunbury will have seven new polyester solids, two new end-on-end and one new Sunbrella yarn — and more are on the way in less than six months.

As the company expands its vistas, "there are many options for the staff to be newly challenged. People are here to stay, and they can grow into new areas and interact on a personal level with customers," said Welge.

One of the key benefits of being independent again, Simone said, "is that we can be freer and faster. We have to be in front of the pack and add value."

This relates especially to "the speed of decisions and implementation in research and design," Welge added.

The company is extremely proud of its quality performance, Truslow and Simone noted. "Last year we had 0.3 percent in returns and off-goods," Simone stated. "And in terms of quality, the industry standard is 5 to 6 imperfections per piece, and we run one per three to four pieces. It's the hallmark of the company."

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