Shirt factory that closed during pandemic to reopen, hire back old employees – WRAL News

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Published: 2021-07-19 19:13:47
Updated: 2021-07-19 19:13:47
Posted July 19, 2021 7:13 p.m. EDT
By Bryan Mims, WRAL reporter
— When a shirt factory closed last year during the pandemic, it stunned the tiny Sampson County town of Garland. The Garland Shirt Company made Brooks Brothers shirts for several presidents and a host of movie stars.
About 150 people lost their jobs when the factory closed, and only around 600 people live in the town. Few residents could fathom life without Brooks Brothers.  
But there’s good news for Garland residents — the factory is expected to re-open this fall.
Last August, WRAL news spoke with Katie Herring, who had just been laid off after working at the shirt plant for 34 years.
“It was very hurtful and very painful,” she said.
Now, Herring is applying for her old job again.
“I’m really excited about it,” she said.
Brooks Brothers switched to making personal protective equipment when the pandemic set in, but it wasn’t enough to fight off bankruptcy.
The company closed the Garland factory that had been making shirts since the 1950s.
“We’ve been trying over a year now to bring it back to life,” said Rick Alexander, president of the Garland Apparel Group.
The group formed to reopen this town’s icon and re-hire many of its former employees.
“We’d love to get every single one of them back,” he said. “That’s really going to depend on what’s happened in their lives over the past year.”
Garland Apparel will produce branded shirts for various designers, including Brooks Brothers. Joe Osorio has worked here for five years as the maintenance tech.
“It makes me feel good because I was the last man standing, as we speak, keeping an eye on the place as everyone scattered,” he said. “And now to see them actually come back and open up, it feels good. The town is loving it. Everybody’s asking when. They’re anxious to come back to work.”
Colleen Joslin, owner of the Colleen’s Country Kitchen, says it’s been unsettling to see the shirt factory parking lot empty.
“It’s sad. You don’t want to see anybody out of work, and you don’t want to see this small town lose revenue,” she said.
Not all former employees will be brought back at once. The goal is to have around 100 people back and working by the end of the year.
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