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Dallco sews for mail-order giants

October 21, 1998

DallcoBy RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer




SPRING RUN, Pa. - It's a room buzzing with the steady hum of dozens of sewing machines run by women who hunch over them in quiet concentration every day from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

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Dallco Industries Inc.'s garment factory in Spring Run, an outpost in Franklin County Pa.'s northwest corner, is staffed by 30 women, about 20 short of the number that Jackie Rowles, plant manager since 1973, says he needs.

Dallco Industries' headquarters and main plant is in York, Pa. The company has five small plants in Pennsylvania, including Spring Run.

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The company is marking its 75th anniversary this year. Two weeks ago, company President Doug Dallmeyer came to Spring Run to celebrate with the workers.

The Spring Run plant makes specialty clothing for such giant mail-order houses as L.L. Bean and Lands' End and liners for Longaberger baskets.

The plant opened in Dry Run, Pa., in 1972. Rowles, 52, went there from a plant in Hustontown, in Fulton County, Pa., that has since closed.

For a time in the mid-1970s, 75 women at Spring Run turned out 2,400 Izod shirts a week. The plant also enjoyed similar success with a Danskin line.

The main plant in York does the final processing and ships to customers.

The company had 900 employees during the busy 1970s and early 1980s. It managed to hang on while competitors turned to less expensive overseas labor.

Dallco's employment once dipped below 375 workers, but now, thanks to restructuring and the landing of new, niche clients like Longaberger, employment is nearing 500 workers companywide.

Rowles said he can use another 15 to 20 machine operators in Spring Run, but its distance from larger population areas makes recruiting difficult.

Any new employees will work with women like Donna Parsons, 49, of Neelyton, Pa., who will have worked for Rowles for 24 years come January. They will also meet Kathy Hampton and Barbara Appleby, both of whom are 46, live in Willow Hill, Pa., five miles south of the plant on Pa. 75, and have been there about 18 years.

"In 24 years I guess I've run just about every machine in here except the buttonholer," Parsons said.

"She's primarily a hemmer," Rowles said.

Parsons and Hampton say they enjoy the work because they like to sew. Both said they sew at home for themselves.

Parsons even does a little sewing for other people, she said. Appleby said she doesn't sew when she gets home.

Peggy Fleming, 43, of Dry Run, two miles north of the plant, holds the honor of being the plant's most veteran worker. She came to Dallco 26 years ago as a machine operator and has been a supervisor for the last 18 years.

"This company has been a success because we all pay attention to quality and detail," Rowles said.

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