L.A. Najarian, Inc - Manufacturer of Custom Designed Narrow Fabrics

Ribbon Mill History

Ribbon Mill Tour

Ribbon Mill History

L.A. Najarian, Inc. is a manufacturer of decorative ribbon products and narrow fabrics for apparel, craft and packaging applications. Located in Greene, New York, the company is owned and operated by Dick Najarian. In 1983, Mr. Najarian reestablished the family business founded by his father Leon Aram Najarian in 1932, in the same building originally used to manufacture silk ribbon for hat bands. Today, the once popular silk hat band is all but gone, and the huge vault once used to store the pricey fiber stands empty. However, L.A. Najarian now produces custom-run narrow fabric ribbon for a wide variety of industries. This product line serves customers from diverse markets including retail packaging, home decorating, floral and craft trades, clothing trim, publishing, medal ribbon, and hat making, among others.

L.A. Najarian retail packaging products are found in malls and catalogs across America, and have reached a world-wide market as an adornment on high-quality retail products sold by Godiva Chocolate, Nordstrom, Norm Thompson, Seagram's, Harley Davidson, and Martha Stewart, to name a few. L.A. Najarian trim also has a global presence on high visibility garments worn by FedEx, American Airlines, and the U.S. Postal Service. New home decorating trims developed in the last year for Avanti have found their way onto decorative towels in Bloomingdales, and other national bed and bath retailers.
 

The company is committed to serving customers with new custom patterns and developing new markets. While many mills have closed, unable to compete with Asian and South American imports on price, Najarian has carved a niche in custom ribbon. By avoiding commodity type products, and focusing on customer service, quick turnaround, and custom design expertise, Najarian has been able to stay one season ahead of foreign competition. The tools of the trade are a very stable and dedicated workforce and state of the art weaving machines. The custom nature of the products demands workers who thrive on new challenges -- the 14 employees average 12 years with the company. Presently the weaving floor has 40 looms with a range of specialized capabilities including 8 computer controlled jacquard looms, wide looms up to 6", and plaid looms. The intricate design work is aided by a CAD design system, which has helped turn out new items from corporate logo ribbon to floral motifs at a steady pace.

In December 2001, L.A. Najarian Inc. received the Chenango County's Chamber of Commerce Small Business Manufacturer of the Year Award. On January 22, 2002 the ribbon mill was honored by a visit from U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer in recognition of that award, and the vitality of small business to the local economy.

 

 From Echoes of the Past or Annals of the Town of Greene, Chenango County, New York 1867-1967
by Mildred English Cochrane Folsom, Town Historian

THE L.A. NAJARIAN MANUFACTURING COMPANY

Go into any haberdashery in Canada, the United States or South America and look over the array of men's hats - winter felts or summer straws and Panamas. What intrigues you? Isn't it the neat, finished look given by the colorful hatbands on them? These rayon hatbands which trim the famous name hats of Stetson, Adams, Mallory, Dobbs and others are made in the Najarian Manufacturing Company in Greene. The same bands go on hats sold in major department stores and chain stores, such as the J.C. Penny Company and Sears, Roebuck & Company. There is only one other hatband manufacturing company like this in the entire United States (in Pennsylvania, it having bought out all other companies), but the Greene plant is the only one which designs its patterns. At the busy time of year it is the Nation's top manufacturer of hatbands.
The present building on Willard Street was built on land purchased from Hanford Smith in 1917, during World War 1, by the Chenango Realty Company, a group of local men who had raised $10,000 by subscription the year before, for a silk mill to be operated by a firm from New Jersey.

At a banquet held at the Hotchkiss Inn, in Oxford, in January 1918 the following employees of the "Greene Silk Mill" were transported there by Floyd Knickerbocker in a large sleigh drawn by 4 horses: Ethel Roney, Emma, Minnie and Alice Bates, Lucille Langdon, Pauline Palmer, Edna Ingraham, Mary Bixby, Eva Barnett, Ida and Rachel Cooper, Ruth McCullough, Laura Boyce, Ethel Taft, Bertha Meade, Grace, Neal and Howard Elliott, Howard Hitt, Ivan Winchell, Arthur Reif, and Superintendent and Mrs. O.L. Smith. In 1919 there were 75 employees. This Company remained here until 1921 and was succeeded by the Scandia Silk Company, of Patterson, N.J.

The "Chenango Ribbon Mill" was in operation here in 1923, at which time the officers were: H.H. Karkjian, President, and Joseph Najarian, Director. Sixteen year old Leon Aram Najarian began work in the plant that year. He had come to this country from his native Egypt two years before and from New Jersey came with his family to Greene to live and attend school. Little did young Aram think when he took his first job that he was learning a trade of which he would one day be the head, and in the very same building that now houses his business. The Chenango Ribbon Mill went bankrupt in 1924.

In January 1932 the Greene Silk Mill was under new management with 32 looms in operation, each weaving 2' to 3 yards of silk per hour. A year later 60 looms were being operated 24 hours a day, with 48 employees. Then in May 1933 the plant suddenly ceased operations and moved away.

Apparently the four Companies operating the Greene Silk Mill during those 16 years were hampered first by the war, then by the depression which followed. But L.A. Najarian was not to be discouraged by these ups and downs. In July 1932 he started a business of his own in Charles Mosher's barn, back of his garage, on South Canal Street. When his production outgrew that amount of space in 1935 he rented the section of building on Matteson Street which later became Ray Bates' Welding Shop, and the two buildings did business 24 hours a day. At this time he employed 6 people. He began by making woven hat-bands, then added ribbons to his line and later, trimmings. By 1937 the business had so grown that again more space was needed, so he bought the vacant Silk Mill on Willard Street and there combined his two smaller operations.

Mr. Najarian was ambitious, an efficient worker himself, and a good manager, and business steadily expanded, with more looms and modern machinery being added as his finances permitted. Today with his machines doing most of the work he employs about 8 or 10 people during the busy season and half that number during the slack summer season when the last of the new sample ribbons are being run off for the coming year. As Mr. Najarian explained to me, the 150,000 yards of samples now (in June 1961) being finished are for the 1963 hat trade. The salesmen are already out on the road getting the 1962 orders which will be made up as soon as they are all in. Then business booms from early fall until about February on the 1962 orders. The rest of the winter and spring will be devoted to making up the 1964 samples - all new patterns ribbons, each pattern in about 5 different shades of colors. With orders varying for each pattern and shade of pattern some looms will naturally be changed more or less frequently than others.

The raw white synthetic yam is bought in large hanks, or skeins, from New York and the South, then sent to New York City to be custom dyed in some 300 shades and colors. Upon its return, each skein is placed onto a rack from which it is run off onto huge spools to be set into the looms to be woven into colorful ribbons of many patterns.

It takes about two weeks to set up all 18 looms. Each loom is set to weave I yard of thread per minute, or 10-12,000 yards of ribbon per day and each can weave approximately 40,000 yds. of ribbon with one loading. A cotton weft thread is woven with the rayon grouping of warp threads so the ribbon will keep its shape. An occasional metallic warp thread is used for variation. After the thread is woven into ribbons it is run onto large rolls, then re-wound on cardboard discs, 36 yards to each, and finally packaged for mailing to the distributor.
The only manual labor involved while the looms are operating is changing bobbins in the shuttles as they run out of thread, so one operator can run a number of machines. Occasionally a broken thread has to be mended by the operator but for the most part the machines are on their own, doing painstakingly accurate work so that the finished product is an exact replica of the sample previously shown the customer and ordered by him. There is probably nothing more fascinating to watch than these giant looms at work, mysteriously turning out miracles of perfection.

The distributor sells these ribbons to jobbers, custom made for each hat manufacturer, who sells to the stores and department stores. It is the jobber who sends out the salesmen with samples to thousands of cities, to find out what the buyers want, and the customer selects from the buyer's choice.
Special orders throughout the year are for narrow ribbon trimmings for ladies' shoes and dresses, gift wrappings, braids and bindings for lampshades, furniture, etc. The Greene plant had a contract during the Second World War to make the pack strap webbing used for the harness of the combat packs of the American troops. It also made the webbing for bomb holders used for parachuting heavy bombs from planes. The hatbands worn at the Republican Convention bearing the words "I like Ike" were woven in the Najarian mill. The plant has what is probably the most colorful stockroom in the country. Tall racks filled with spools of thread of every color imaginable are the hues of a rainbow, sunset, or autumn leaves, and still does not include all the colors represented. Mr. Najarian's sons Jack and Richard (Dick), are now associated with him in the business.


Ribbon Mill Tour


Warping Department

Preparation: Warp Assembly
The raw material arrives in the form of cones of single thread yarn. Multiple yarn cones are mounted on the creel, and each end is threaded from a tensioning device through the comb and onto a warp beam. The creel can accommodate over a hundred warp threads (ends) which are fed simultaneously onto the full width of the warp beam. A number of warp beams make up a set with a unique layout for each pattern. A fully loaded beam can hold 30 lbs. of yarn or over 10,000 yds of each of over a hundred individual ends.

Factors for consideration in the warping department include:

The number of ends in the pattern and total yardage of the yarn commitment
The carrying capacity of the warp beam to hold the number of ends at a given yardage
The number of spaces to be utilized in production on the loom
The ground and edge warp conventions for the pattern design provided in the warp chart
Proximity in the production schedule to other jobs utilizing the same yarn material or setup conventions

Weaving Department

Machine Construction and Setup
All parts of the needle loom are mounted to a frame which occupies a space approximately 3 ft. wide x 8 ft. deep x 8 ft. high. The individual warp beams are mounted on a stand at the back. The let-off motion for the ground and edge warps is regulated with tension weights and brake ropes. An electric motor rotates the main drive shaft operating the shedding motion, the weft insertion apparatus at the weaving heads, and the woven fabric take-up rollers. The filling (weft) thread and catch thread spools are mounted on and fed from the upper part of the loom.

Up to eight warp beams per loom space are mounted on a rack behind the loom. The rope brakes and tension weights are set in place, and a weaver is assigned to draw-in the machine, or tie-in to a continuing setup. The warp threads are pulled over a guide roller and each end threaded through a back reed and the warp stop motion, which cuts power in the event of thread breakage. Each end is individually drawn through healds mounted on shafts, which accomplish the movement of threads up or down in the shedding motion. The thread then passes through the reed, with one to several threads in each dent, and finishes by going through the take-up rollers.

Weaving
The woven fabric is created by the action of three separate motions, affecting the relative position of the heald shaft, weft needle, and the reed. The shedding, weft insertion and reed motions run in sequence while a fourth, the take-up motion applies constant tension.

In order to weave fabric by insertion of a fill (weft) thread across the warp, the warp ends are positioned in either an up or down position by the moving of healds. This motion may be driven by cams, pattern chains, or a dobby depending on the type of loom and pattern requirements.

Finishing and Blocking Department

The woven fabric undergoes final processing on the finishing ranges. After passing through a water or starch bath, the goods are dried to a smooth finish on heated drums, then blocked on cores or spools for shipping. Additional services in this department include heat-set finishing, moire finish, hot foil stamp printing, strip cutting and packaging.

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