With all the “Made in China” labels flooding the market today, it is refreshing to find an American manufacturer using American workers to produce quality products at a competitive price. Such is the case with Greenville, South Carolina based Victor Mill, makers of comforters, bedspreads, duvet covers, coverlets, window treatments, and decorative pillows, whose motto is “Affordable luxury one piece at a time.”
“I think we are seeing a swing back to local, quality-made products to a degree,” says Vic Williamson, President and Owner of Victor Mill Incorporated. “I don’t think people are going to pay double for the same product, but they may pay 10 or 15 percent more if the quality is there. What we can offer is a better product made in USA, plus we can custom make small lots of product for our customers and they don’t have to buy the big container loads.”
Victor Mill offers different price points depending on the details of the product and the cost of the fabric. Whenever possible, they also buy fabrics that are American woven and printed.
Like a lot of other American manufacturers, Victor Mill took a huge hit starting in 2008 with the decline in the economy. “What really hurt us, besides the economy, were the imports flooding the U.S. with low quality and really cheap prices,” says Sofia Orbeli, Office Manager, for Victor Mills. “People got into the “replace it” mentality because the products didn’t last. Now we are more made in the U.S. conscious, plus the quality is here. In England they have a saying, ‘We are not rich enough to buy cheap things.’ Buy what you really like, pay a little bit more for quality and enjoy it longer because it will last longer.”
Orbeli cites the recent rise in import prices as a positive for American manufacturers. “The cost of transportation and customs has risen, so now we are competing less with imports on pricing and offering what I believe to be a better product.”
Manufacturing Manager, Cindy Bearden, agrees. “It is our people who create the product; that’s where the quality comes from. If you don’t have good employees, you don’t have the quality. We have excellent cutters, machine operators and quilters. The thing that Victor Mills strives for is the satisfaction of its customers. If the quality wasn’t there we wouldn’t still be here.”
Owner Vic Williamson has been in the manufacturing business since college when he worked his way through Georgia Tech designing bottles for Coca-Cola. “I had a friend in the School of Textiles who talked me into working with him there. It was the best part-time job I ever had.” After graduating with a B.S. in Textiles, Vic started looking for work. “Vietnam was going on, so when I interviewed for positions, they liked me but were afraid that they would put a lot of work into training me, and I would be drafted. But, because of an old football injury—I walked on at Georgia Tech and played a little football and got a little injury to my wrist—the Army didn’t take me. So I called all these people I had talked to about a job and Coleman offered me a job designing tents.”
Williamson worked with Coleman in Pennsylvania where he went through a strike and a cold winter before deciding to head back south to take a sales associate job in Atlanta, Ga. with Wamsutta Mills, the Cadillac of sheet manufacturers. “I had an expense account and a company car, so I was sold on sales,” he laughs. “I was with Wamsutta for three years then worked for Anchor Hocking selling glass to coke bottlers. I decided to get back into textiles and went back with Wamsutta for a couple of years. That’s where I learned the sales end of this business. I already had design experience and contacts and it just felt right to work with textiles.” After tripling his income as a southeast rep for Whiting Manufacturing, Williamson started several of his own textile companies before opening the Atlanta Quilting Company in 1991 in Atlanta, Georgia.
“When I moved to this area from Atlanta in 2000, the business name didn’t fit anymore,” Williamson explains when asked about the company name. “I started in the old Victor Mill factory in Greer and my name is Victor, so that’s how Victor Mill Incorporated began.”
Since that time, Victor Mill has moved from Woodside Mill to its current location in the old American Spinning Mill in Greenville, where it has resided now for three years. “At one time I had three retail stores and large million dollar accounts,” states Williamson. “Then some bad accounts, a major theft and the economy took its toll. But we survived it and have come back even stronger to offer some of the best home furnishing products on the market made by Americans who really take pride in their work. We do special things. That’s the way we have survived.”