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Kay Dee celebrates 50th year at market

HOPE VALLEY, RI -Kay Dee Designs, based here, is celebrating its 50th anniversary at April market.

The company has issued catalogs and notices announcing the anniversary to its customers, said Robyn Tracy, manager of marketing and new product development.

Originally known as Kay Dee Hand Prints, Kay Dee Designs was established in 1951 as a manufacturer of screen printed by hand linen towels and linen calendar towels "that used to be very big in the '50s and '60s," Tracy said.

"The original printing facility is behind the home of the original owner's house. The facility used to be a dog kennel," Tracy said.

In the late 1960s, the company acquired automated screen printing machinery that allowed Kay Dee to expand its product offerings to include potholders, oven mitts, aprons and, later, terry kitchen towels.

Turbulent times came in the 1980s when Kay Dee experienced frequent changes in ownership.

"At one point we cam every close to going out of business," during the time when General Housewares Corp. owned Kay Dee, said Tracy.

Then-vp of sales Rick Rakauskas and then-vp of operations Chuck Donnell saw the company sinking and decided to take over it. They became co-owners and partners in October 1990.

"We've increased business by 300 percent in [top-line] sales from the level it was at when we bought it," said Donnell, who added that Kay Dee Designs now serves more than 3,000 independent gift stores and "most of the major kitchen textile" specialty and department store retailers. "We do not sell to mass. We are a more upscale manufacturer."

Kay Dee Designs will introduce new table linen programs and a new line of anti-distress cushion rugs at April market.

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