Cedar Rapids, Iowa News, Sports, and Weather
OSAGE - Fox River Mills is knitting the threads of success in Osage. The company has been around for more than 100 years, and while it used to be done by hand, now machines hum, whirr and knit thousands of pairs a day.
"A Pair takes about 6 minutes," said Mike Tyer, Marketing Manager for Fox River. "We're not creating large quantities of inventory. We're creating just in time inventory."
While the company has its signature sock, it has to keep up with a changing industry. Trendy styles and patterns, different knits and more make up the offerings made in Osage.
"It's no longer a white tube sock," said Plant manager Dan Teel. It's gotta have that color, it's gotta have that flair. It's no longer a commodity item. We're setting fashion's trends with socks now. It's the new tie."
The fancy footwear is engineered to cater to workers, kids, athletes, and it starts with the thread. The machines thread wools, different types of nylons, and elastics in to work their magic. Once they are knitted, they go through an organic pre-treat, pre-shrink process, and into the driers.
Then, workers like Jackie Johnson fit and form each and every sock to check sizing and quality. "I make sure they pair up nice. Make sure the toe and heel line up and the end of the leg lines up," said Johnson.
"Every single sock is touched. Numerous times," she said.
Fox River socks have also touched lives, becoming something more than just clothing. Famous "sock monkeys" smile because of the classic red stripe in Fox River socks. It's a side of the business they've seen go bananas. "We've added additional colors. Originally they came in blue and brown. We've added several others," said Becky Lessard, Vice President of Administration & Finance.
Keeping it all made in the U.S.A. is important to company executives. "The market is demanding faster turns, more styles, and more skews," said Teel. "More change. You can't do that if you've got 3 months each way on a boat to get those changes."
Keeping more than 200 people employed, and feet covered, with a product Made in Eastern Iowa.