A Brief History
Providing America's Curtains and Drapery since 1918
My grandfather was entrepreneurial. In 1918, at age 22, he left his position selling passementerie (trimmings) for the August Small Company. He crossed out the name August Small on the swatch cards he carried, wrote in the name Hornick, and booked orders that day. With a $500 guarantee provided by a friend, he was able to rent a small loft at 102 Bleeker Street here in New York City. The Louis Hornick Company was born. Growing rapidly, he moved offices to Wooster Street in a lMy ocation now occupied by NYU.
In the 1920′s, my grandfather brought over knitting machines from Europe and started manufacturing “Net Curtains” which he sold to jobbers and by 1927, the firm grew too large for the Wooster Street location and moved into three 10,000 sqft lofts at 22 West 21st Street. In the 1930’s, the company sold its curtains to the big “5&10” chain, Kresge, where the business required him to occasionally take the overnight train to Detroit (Kresge later became Kmart) – How honored he was that the buyer would always send a car to pick him up at the station…indeed, times have changed! It was also at this time that the firm began selling JCPenney, Sears and WT Grant.
In 1943 my grandfather suffered a debilitating stroke. During wartime, we were manufacturing camouflage netting for the military, and my father, M.J. Hornick, was called upon to come out of the Army for a year to run the business. Once Dad steadied the company, he went back into the Service, leaving my grandmother, Anna, to run the business. People have forgotten the important roles in industry that many women played during World War II, where events required them to take the reins of running a family owned business, allowing their husbands and sons to fight for their country.
My grandfather died in 1946, not quite 50 years old. My father, M.J. Hornick, had just come out of the Army and decided to immediately implement his Wharton Business School thesis, “The Inefficiencies of Manufacturing in New York City in a Multi-Storied Building” and relocate within 50 miles of New York City.
In 1946, there was no Palisades parkway, no Thruway and no Tappan Zee Bridge. Haverstraw, a sleepy community that had once been the largest brick-producing town in the United States, was selected as a site. Located twenty-eight miles north of the George Washington Bridge, its location enabled my father and his team of executives to easily travel to either our newly relocated New York office at 261 Fifth Avenue or the factory in Haverstraw.
My father opened the factory on June 1, 1949. On June 2nd he was married.
Another reason for the removal of the firm’s operation from New York City was the outdated machinery. The machinery was installed over a period of years and the Union restricted craft changes and scheduling. In 1949 New York City, each shift had fifteen knitters for three machines; by 1959, three knitters each ran fifteen machines. Nevertheless, we remained unionized in Haverstraw.
A warehouse, showroom with a sales manager were established in the 1950’s in Los Angeles to service the West Coast buying offices of WT Grant, Sears, and JCPenney and regional retailers. We became capable of shipping from LA to stores that our customers were opening in Alaska, Hawaii and Guam.
The Brand names Duralon and Permalon were established to differentiate Hornick from its rivals.
My father had built many fine relationships with the leaders of the American Retail Industry, so much so to the point when, in 1963, we were looking at boarding schools, Dad persuaded Mr. J. C. Penney to give me an interview. He was on the board of the Hill School. I was, of course, in awe during the interview. He was a kind and warm gentleman. Needless to say, it was a positive recommendation and the school welcomed me. Yet, I went to Suffield Academy in Connecticut where I served as a Trustee for 10 years.
Under my father’s focused leadership, the business grew rapidly from 1950-1980. Many of our curtains were seen on prominent TV shows and in movies. In that period, six additions were made to the original building in Haverstraw. On the day I turned 16, I started working on the factory floor. My summers and holidays were spent in our manufacturing operations where I trained and performed every craft. I also travelled overseas visiting our equipment manufacturers in Germany. During these 6 years, I also met many of the buyers and merchandise managers in the industry when they visited our facilities.
In 1972 I graduated Wharton and came into the business full time. I became President in 1980, a few months after, my son Louis Hornick III was born.
Dad died June 1, 1988 and is interred on a hill overlooking the facility he built.
From 1988-2000, our business focused on and invested in Associate Education & Training, deploying Six Sigma Problem-Solving Techniques, developing High Powered Teams, Capital Investment, and Information Systems.
We now compete in a hyper-competitive, global marketplace. Therefore, in 2000, our business went global. However, during this period, our hearts, technical expertise and skill sets remained in the USA. In 2008 we reluctantly terminated manufacturing in Haverstraw.
Around this time my son, commonly called Tripp, entered the business as the fourth generation.
A side-note: with Tripp’s graduation the from University of Pennsylvania, our family completed a “hat trick”:
Dad graduated in 1942
I graduated in 1972
Tripp graduated in 2002
On October 31st, 2013, with the U.S. Secretary of Commerce at our side, we proudly announced a new chapter for Louis Hornick and Company: our plans to establish our new manufacturing facility in South Carolina. The multi-million dollar investment is expected to generate 125 new jobs over the next three years.
As Tripp has said so well: “every aspect of this venture is geared toward offering the most options to our retail partners and manufacturing the highest quality products the American consumer demands and deserves. We aren’t just building a facility – we are moving to South Carolina. The fact that Manhattan residents are doing so is testament to our dedication, but, equally, reflects on the wonderful people in the great state of South Carolina.”
We have specialized in producing curtains and draperies for 99 years. In South Carolina, Louis Hornick will be manufacturing in a highly automated cut sew packaging process, notably used in its production of the firefend™ brand of flame retardant window treatments. A diverse collection of window covering fabrics will be manufactured in our new home and will be supplied for all markets including dotcom, institutional, hospitality and commercial.
With our new facility we are not only cost competitive with China and India but we reduce our lead-time at a minimum by 50%. Our put-through time ensures an out-of-stock store, from un-forecasted demand, is back-in-stock within the week.
As my family and I move from Manhattan to South Carolina in order to be right next to our facility, let us remember that every job we create helps a family, our nation and our economy.
We proudly look forward to our centennial.
Louis Hornick II
Chairman and CEO