Townsend Leather, which marked tis 50th anniversary in 2019, has moved its sales, marketing, accounting, human resources and management teams into a newly restored building built in 1900.
The complex, which the company has affectionately nicknamed The Stitch, also features a warehouse of raw materials. It formerly served as the Diana Knitting Mill and had been vacant for 16 years before Townsend purchased the property in late 2017 and undertook a massive renovation project.
The company secured a grant to help with this huge undertaking and the first major part of the renovation was a new roof and refitting of windows. As far as the interior, Townsend salvaged the wood and local artisans combined the floorboards with other reclaimed pieces of leather, milling, sewing and knitting equipment and materials to create new pieces of furniture.
“You don’t buy wood from 1900 every day of the week, so you’ll see here some of the pieces of furniture that we built out of the floors,” said Tim Beckett, Townsend Leather’s senior vice president and lead on the renovation project. “What we tried to do is bring in a lot of the old stuff from our mill and a couple of other mills, but also mix in with knitting, so you’ll see some sewing machines around.”
Throughout The Stitch, original wooden beams and brick walls are featured prominently in open concept spaces being utilised for modern office areas and conference rooms. On the second and third floors, the original wooden floors remain intact and Townsend purchased reclaimed wooden doors where called for to maintain the architectural aesthetic. “We wanted to make sure we kept the building looking like an old building,” said Beckett.
Of course leather is a another common feature of the décor, present in the form of large and small swatches, samples and photos of finished pieces Townsend’s leather has been turned into. Fixtures and pieces of furniture have also been covered in the material. Even though the bulk of leather-making still occurs at Townsend’s Townsend Avenue location a few minutes across town, The Stitch is a showcase for what the company is capable of producing.
While the interior of The Stitch has a timeless feel through the mix of antique and contemporary design work, Beckett noted that all new gas and electric facilities were installed in the building, along with a three-stop elevator to bring the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Only a warehouse on the second floor for storing Townsend’s raw production materials has a modern feel, featuring newly installed metal racks and lighting fixtures.
The motivation for buying the complex was the need for storage space – the company sought a location to warehouse hides purchased from Germany. Townsend finishes the materials according to contracts with designers and manufacturers in the residential, hospitality, contract, aviation and transportation markets.
The company considered opening warehouse space in Germany or in New York City before deciding to secure a space locally. Townsend originally sought only 20,000ft² but ultimately purchased the 66,000ft² Diana Knitting Mill complex due to the look of the building and the potential the management team saw when they walked through it.
The building features a variety of spaces, including several areas that Townsend will market as leasable office space on the first and third floors. Beckett said Townsend has already lined up a tenant with 26 employees to occupy roughly 4,000ft² of space on the first floor.
Beckett said executives carefully contemplated Townsend’s future, coming to the conclusion that the building would be ideal for supporting growth or contraction by the company as the building is actually composed of two tax parcels that could be divided if the company sought to downsize in the future by relocating the company offices. “We could split the building in half, we have separate utilities for both,” he said. “We could rent that all out for office space and just use this for storage. We were trying to think about where we’re going to be and what we’re going to do.”
If the company continues to grow, there will be plenty of room at The Stitch for expansion.
Townsend Leather is a third-generation, USA-based family business and manufacturer of upholstery hides and decorative leathers, supplying the A&D residential, hospitality, home furnishings, corporate, business, and commercial aviation, motorcoach and yachting markets internationally. The company prides itself on pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of colour, texture, pattern, design and technological opportunities.