Masks Are An Industry


Richloom, Clinton, has fabric - mask-making becomes a natural extension of their business.



America is making thing again.

A prime example: Richloom, Clinton. Adjusting to the new normal of a four-day work week, the employees have joined together in an effort to protect elder-care workers and those outside of hospitals caring for people as the Coronavirus appears to be on the downside of its peak.

Still dangerous, the virus can cause the potentially fatal, respiratory illness COVID-19. One front-line of defense: covering the mouth and nose to guard against airborne liquids from people nearby who are coughing and breathing.

Masks, the New American Industry. 

It's not a business for Richloom, but it has potential. Masks made in Clinton are helping to protect Richloom corporate executives and staff in New York. Each person there got 4 Clinton-plant-made masks at their homes, through the mail.

That's snail mail - not e-mail.

“We will seek Level 1 and 2 medical-grade testing. We hope to be able to deliver gowns and masks,” said Sean Prouty, vice-president of operations at the Clinton location. Room separators also are a possibility for the company, which ships high-grade fabric worldwide and direct to consumers. Prouty said the company’s Walmart business has seen a major uptick lately.

Part of that could be DYI - as people shelter-in-place during the COVID-19 pandemic, they come up with do it yourself ideas. Children tired of on-line lessons are learning to sew. And, a lot of people are making masks - responding to requests from many sectors of American society.

Richloom’s sewing rooms are going at capacity, even as its warehouse continues to ship fabric. Customer representatives have volunteered for the sorting, cutting and sewing operation, since the pandemic has cancelled the major trade shows. Acquisition of a sewing plant in High Point, N.C., has ramped up the masks production, said Barb Brinton, the Clinton plant’s communication manager.

Richloom, Clinton, donated many of its masks to Woodbridge Senior Living Clinton, for staff and residents. “They were very appreciative,” Brinton said.

Others went to a dialysis center in Greenwood.

These masks have pockets so a filter can be slipped in if the wearer desires to do so - the filter is similar to vacuum cleaner-bag material to provide extra protection against a virus.

These “home-grown” masks allow the front-line medical professionals to have continued access to the medical-grade masks and protective clothing. Many stores are requiring patrons to wear masks in-building; and assisted living facilities, whose staffs are in very close quarters with their residents while on lockdown, require protective clothing and social distancing, as well.

For now, Richloom has been able to operate four days a week, Monday - Thursday, without a major furlough. Upper management is in constant contact with company locations across the nation. Their business has been hit hard by downturns in the hospitality and cruise industries - their fabrics are used on light-dampening curtains and indoor/outdoor furnishings - but fabric itself is still in demand.

“Our disposable or reusable medical products demand has increased 6-fold, and we were able to meet it with existing infrastructure,” Proudy said. “This is a world event, and the world has come calling, and we also were able to meet the needs of our local community.”

And, oh yes, those masks sent to New York City? They are suitable for protection while riding the subway, when the hard-hit New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region re-opens completely. Upper management is working from home, and once they opened their boxes from Clinton, South Carolina, they showed off their masks in a “Brady Bunch style” meeting, so everyone here could see the Richloom culture in action.


My Clinton News

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513 North Broad St.
Clinton, SC 29325
Phone: (864) 833-1900
Fax: (864) 833-1902

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