Pellon employees, from left, Lenora Babb in sales, Amaris Leon and Jonathon Seniw, both in marketing, pose in front of a wall of Pellon products in showroom of the company’s new headquarters in Largo.
LARGO – The Haskell family, owners of Pellon Consumer Products, has been in the fabric and textile industry for four generations.
“This dates back to when my great-grandfather was selling war patches to the government during World War II,” explained Cris Haskell, CEO of the company, which recently moved its headquarters to Largo.
The business expanded into Dubin Haskell Jacobson, or DHJ, a publicly traded international company selling “non-wovens” to the apparel industry. DHJ was sold in the 1970s, but “non-wovens” still describe what the Haskell family manufactures and distributes within the craft and home goods markets.
The Haskells own the Pellon brand, a name that has come to describe the structural material in quilts, within North America. Pellon Consumer Products still works with the German company Freudenberg, which first brought the innovative material to the United States six decades ago.
“The Pellon brand has a lot of equity. It’s been around in the craft and hobby world for about 60 years,” Cris Haskell explained. “Consumers know and trust this brand.”
John Haskell, representing the third generation of Haskells in textiles, took over the Pellon brand at the start of the new millennium. The move to retail was a new direction for the family, his son explained.
“My father really did an unbelievable job in growing the business, working with our employees, working with our customers and our suppliers to really expand the product lines,” Cris Haskell said.
Now, the Pellon Consumer Products distributes more than 800 products, and it’s not just quilters who use Pellon regularly. The company’s flagship products are still batting and interfacing, sold in several color-coded categories: blue for embroidery, pink for apparel, yellow for crafts and home decor, green for quilting and orange for fusible webs and adhesives.
The company packages its products into what it calls “notions,” usually a kit to make a specific craft. It also has a home goods line that sells comforters, bed pillows, bed forms, mattress encasements, mattress protectors and even pet beds.
But Pellon doesn’t sell directly to the consumer. Its customers are Joann’s Fabrics, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Hancock Fabric and several independent distributors around the country that cater to more than 6,000 sewing and quilting shops.
Still, the company targets its products to consumers, working backward to refine the process and market new items to the businesses that sell Pellon, Cris Haskell said. Every day, the company gets both positive and negative emails and calls on its 800 number from Pellon consumers.
“It’s very helpful for us to stay in tune with the experience they are having in the market so we can adjust either our manufacture line or put in (more) quality control mechanisms in place,” Cris Haskell said. “That’s a big focus for the company.”
Pellon consumers rely on the consistency and quality of the brand, he explained. New products begin with that in mind.
“We spend a lot of time doing research and working with consumers and then taking that information internally and trying to come up with a proper delivery or product to what the benefit of that product is,” he said.
About seven years ago, the company moved to St. Petersburg from Georgia. It grew into two warehouses and a downtown office.
“It wasn’t until maybe late last year where we realized our growth was surpassing our space, and we needed to really consolidate all three facilities into one,” Cris Haskell said.
The company canvassed Pinellas County to look for opportunities, narrowing it down to two locations. The 140,000-square-foot site at 4801 Ulmerton Road in Largo made the most sense. Pellon Consumer Products began the transition about two months ago.
“And it’s starting to pay its dividends. The teams are working more closely together,” Cris Haskell said. “Instead of running around from a couple of different places, they now have a lot more resources to handle the day-to-day issues.”
Most of the company’s employees, about 100 total, now work in the Largo headquarters.
“We’re just excited to get settled in the city of Largo in this facility. It’s great for us; we’ve been growing so much that we’ve found a place that we’re going to be calling home for the foreseeable future,” Cris Haskell said. “We try and bring everything down here so we can have a hold of the quality stronger.”
Aside from Largo, Pellon Consumer Products has manufacturing plants and sales offices around the United States, including offices intentionally close to Wal-Mart and Joann headquarters. The company challenges itself and its suppliers to manufacture the majority of its products in the United States, Cris Haskell explained
“Sometimes, unfortunately, we can’t always do that, so then we go to China or India or Southeast Asia,” he said.
Cris Haskell joined his father in the business about four years ago. The company also includes his brother, “and of course, the real boss: Mom,” he said.
John Haskell never forced his son to join the family business. With that freedom – appreciated in hindsight – Cris worked with brand management in the consumer package goods industry. The outside experience helped the company when he joined his father at the helm.
Cris said he was hesitant to make the move at first, but now the two work closely together.
“We are smiling, hand-in-hand every single day,” he added with a grin.