Blanketed in tradition, pointed to the future
Woolrich, an iconic American outdoor clothing and accessories company, is growing through branded retail stores and a thriving online business.
Woolrich® Inc. oozes history and tradition as few companies do. The iconic outdoor clothing and accessories manufacturer is run by relatives of John Rich, who founded the company 185 years ago. The family lineage now stretches across eight generations.
The company is based in Woolrich, Pennsylvania, where employees in a 200-year-old woolen mill make blankets and fabric for clothing. It’s the oldest operating textile factory in the U.S.
But Woolrich isn’t entrenched in the past. With financing help from Wells Fargo, it has expanded beyond sales to retailers (and a thriving e-commerce business) with its first two Woolrich-branded stores in the U.S. — in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo district and in Boston. In addition, the company’s headquarters in the picturesque Pennsylvania countryside features a 20,000-foot retail shop.
“The support from Wells Fargo and our relationship through the retail development strategy has been amazing,” says Josh Rich, Woolrich’s executive vice president. “They’ve not only supported the direction, but have provided us inputs, support, and advice on different areas where we’re opening.”
Woolrich already has branded stores in Europe and Canada, and it plans to open one or two stores per year in the U.S. in the next five years.
A brand with staying power
Among Woolrich’s enduring products are blankets (used by Civil War soldiers), the Railroad Vest introduced when railroads were being built in Pennsylvania during the 19th century, and the Buffalo Check shirt (think black and red plaid).
Company leaders say Woolrich has endured and adapted to nearly two centuries of American history. Today it combines traditional fabrics like wool and cotton with man-made fibers to create clothing that customers can feel equally comfortable in while backpacking or taking a leisurely stroll.
Dan McGonagle of Wells Fargo Capital Finance says Woolrich’s history “resonated with us at Wells Fargo, because brands are very important to us as well. The thing that really strikes us is that the family is still active and involved and dedicated to this business. And the folks you see in the plant working are multi-generational as well, which is great.”
Josh concludes, “Like Wells Fargo, we have a small-town value with a big-city ambition. I think our relationship is a natural fit.”