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HomeGrown: Crescent Sock Company

9:18 PM, Dec 18, 2012   |    comments
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Everyday, hundreds of socks-- different styles, softness, sizes and colors-- are sewn and seamed in Niota, a tiny East Tennessee town with just one traffic light.

"Our blinking yellow light now has three colors," says Sandra Burn Boyd.

Yes, the Crescent Company produces socks, and lots of them, for retail giants, catalogs and customers all over the world.

"We ship to Mexico, Canada, Australia."

And, it all threads back to 1902.

"Our great-grandfather was one of the few gentlemen who gathered around the depot here in Niota to try to come up with an industry to provide jobs."

The idea was a textile mill, and they named it after the railroad line that stopped in Niota en route to New Orleans.

"Part of what we call the old mill is still in our backyard so to speak."

The family business survived the Great Depression and even a major fire in February 1966.

"We went on. We actually had some friends who had a hosiery mill in Athens, and they let us do some production on second shift at their plant."

The Burn sisters practically grew up at the mill and even worked there at Christmas and during summers.

"My earliest memories were being the model for socks," says Cathy Burn Allen.

It's a role she's never outgrown.

"We don't get caught without our socks," says Cathy.

And rightly so. The fourth generation sisters now run the company, carrying on their father's legacy.

"The family is kind of the same, but the building and the production has definitely grown," says Sandra.

"The old timey equipment was all manual, and it took hours to get the machine ready to make a sock. Now, it's on a computer," says Cathy.

The technology spits out a sock in about a minute.

"A million pairs go out of here every year.".

In the early '90s though, Crescent Socks relied on overseas production.

"There was so much cheap labor especially in China and Pakistan. That was just one of things we had to do to stay in business."

However, today, Crescent's cut outsourcing from 60% to 15% and employs 150 locals.

"We keep Niota running."

Crescent produces three of it's own brands, World's Softest, is the oldest and most popular-- especially during the holidays.

"It's really a good stocking stuffer," says Sandra.

"We get hundreds of orders a day," adds Cathy.

The company has a new outdoor brand called F.I.T.S. This brand is sold mainly at mom and pop stores which also sell the company's third, less expensive outdoor line called Jack's.

It's named after 48-year Crescent veteran Jack Ewing.

"I'm semi-retired and having a good time," says Jack.

The sock company is also licensed to produce Head- a work sock sold at Costco and Omni Wool which is sold at Sam's.

And, there are no plans of slowing down.

"We've had offers for people to buy, but we're just not going to sell the company," says Sandra.

Crescent Sock Company, born in Niota.

"We just want to be here and give jobs to the community," says Cathy.

HomeGrown in Tennessee.

You can find the socks online.  In the Knoxville area, the socks are sold locally at Mass General and Bliss.

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