Brooks Brothers leaving Garland

GARLAND — After many years of producing high-quality dress shirts in Sampson County, Brooks Brothers is leaving Garland and 146 people without jobs.

The New York-based company sent a letter to the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Workforce Solutions about permanently closing the Garland Shirt Factory on South Church Avenue because of the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19). A WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) was sent to state officials about the decision, which is required by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The location is scheduled to permanently close July 20 or during a 14-day period commencing on that date.

Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy received confirmation Friday from the N.C. Department of Commerce, news that is expected to hit the town hard. It’s one of three Brooks Brothers factories in the United States. The others are located in New York and Massachusetts.

“We’re devastated right now emotionally because it’s family,” Murphy said. “We’re hopeful that there will be something that might happen before July 20.”

Mary Pytko, Brooks Brothers executive vice president of Global Human Resources, apologized about not providing more advanced notice of the action caused by the pandemic.

“The speed and vast reach of the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as the different declarations of a state of emergency and directives at the federal, state and local level, including but not limited to: the directives for individuals to remain in place, with exception for essential needs, in certain jurisdictions, the directives for individuals to avoid congregating, limit retail operations and to work remotely was unforeseeable and caused, and will continue to cause, among other things, a drastic impact on the company’s business,” Pytko stated. “These business circumstances were not reasonably foreseeable as of the time that notices would have been required. After reviewing our staffing and business needs, we are providing this notice to you at the earliest possible time.”

Murphy is praying and is hopeful that another manufacturer will look at at the plant and Garland’s community and fill the void left by Brooks Brothers. Murphy added that’s she thankful for the New York-based company for being in Garland for about 20 years, after purchasing the building. Shirts from the factory have been worn by President Barack Obama and other famous people such as Will Smith and country music star George Strait.

“The textile plant has been a part of Garland since the early 1950s and Brooks Brothers been with us since 2001, so we’re thankful for all they’ve done to stay here for the employees,” Murphy said. “Most of Garland has worked at Brooks Brothers, so we’re very thankful.”

Along with an unknown future for a major staple in town, town leaders are also concerned about people who rely on the factory to make a living.

“We do hope something will work out for the employees,” Murphy said. “We’re concerned about them and we’re concerned about the town. But we’re still hopeful that there will be someone or something that intervenes prior to July.”

The departure will also impact Garland economically when it comes to taxes provided by the company. In a message to commissioners and media officials, Town Clerk Pam Cashwell requested more time to revise the 2020-2021 budget, which was already seeing hardships because of COVID-19.

“We were prepared to present a budget message on Tuesday night but we have postponed that for at least a week,” Murphy said. “Now, we have to go back and be even more conservative than we were with the loss of revenue.”

In 2018, a smaller piece of Brooks Brothers left Garland when the Factory Outlet closed on 15 E. Front St. in Garland.

At the time, there was hope that the Brooks Brothers’ Garland Shirt Factory, would stay. In a public update posted May 12, Chairman and CEO Claudio Del Vecchio spoke about the contributions of Garland workers during the pandemic when masks and gowns were made to provide protective gear for health care workers at hospitals and other facilities. The work began in April.

“I am very proud of the work achieved by our associates at all three of our reopened Brooks Brothers factories in the United States,” he said. “With enhanced safety and sanitation protocols in place, our dedicated teams have been diligently applying their expertise to sewing masks for PPE use. Protecting the brave personnel on the front lines every day during this crisis has been our goal from the beginning. We will continue to work hard to accomplish that vital mission and serve those in need.”

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Brooks Brothers is saying goodbye to Garland, citing COVID-19 business matters. Brothers is saying goodbye to Garland, citing COVID-19 business matters.
Factory set to close, leaving 146 jobless and town reeling

By Chase Jordan

[email protected]

Reach Chase Jordan at 910-592-8137. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.