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Life sews on for Anderson Fabrics

Pat Masino, 82, sews in the Anderson Fabric Workroom. Photo by Jillian Gandsey. 1 / 2
The Anderson Fabric Workroom is 135,000 square feet and only about one-third of its workers spend their day sewing. Submitted photo. 2 / 2

After a major low point in 2009, Anderson Fabrics has stitched its way back as a leading employer in Blackduck and northern Minnesota.

The last time the 135,000-square-foot Anderson Fabric Workroom saw 325 employees was in 2006, during the housing boom. Following that, business went south during the Great Recession.

“We didn’t know if we would ever come back that strong,” said Steve Cochems, president of Anderson Fabrics.

The workroom produces window treatments, bedding and accessories like ottomans, trunks, folding screens, table linens, table skirts and more.

Now, the company just finished hiring around 30 people and will continue to hire throughout the year. Immediately, they hope to hire another 10 or 15 employees, according to Miriam Osborn, Human Resources manager.

“Because the employees here did such a great job prior to the recession, and throughout the recession, in serving our customers both quality-wise and how quickly we get the product out to our customers, we’ve built back very close to where we were back in 2006,” Cochems said.

Seasonal workers are also needed in the workroom and mainly for sewing, said Osborn. “We always welcome skilled sewers.”

Part of the challenge facing Anderson Fabrics was the lack of affordable housing during the recession. The company thrives off the single-family housing market, which isn’t where it was in 2006, but is also up from its downfall in 2009.

Hiring and benefits

Workers at Anderson Fabrics don’t necessarily have to possess a certain skill to obtain a job there. Cochems said that if people are willing to work and learn, they can always be trained.

Only one-third of the positions in the workroom are sewing jobs. “A lot of people think they have to sew to work at Anderson Fabrics,” Cochems said.

The starting wage was recently increased at Anderson Fabrics, too. After an introductory period, employees will make $9.50 an hour during the day shift and during the second shift from 3:15 to 11:45 p.m. workers make $10.50 and hour.

Since Jan. 1, employees are also offered health care benefits for the first time. That’s a component that was looked at in 2006, but was put on the back burner due to the recession.

The company began to again look at health care in the beginning of 2013. “No matter what happens here we plan to keep it because it’s a benefit that’s important,” Osborn said.

Anderson Fabrics attributes its recent success to a swing in the housing market and also DOTS (Daily Optimal Throughput System).

DOTS is a program that uses colored stickers on order forms or receipts to let employees know the urgency of the product.

Before DOTS was put in place in 2005, it took about eight to 12 weeks to get a products back to the customer. That’s been cut to two to three weeks and, according to Cochems, sometimes less.

“It’s amazing what a difference a visual will make,” Osborn said.

Jillian Gandsey

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at 218-333-9786, 218-996-1216 or at 

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