Edwards garment

PRINTWEAR EXCLUSIVE: Edwards Garment Celebrates 150 Years in Business

Edwards Garment marks more than 100 years in the apparel industry with an event at company headquarters in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The event took place on Jan. 6. Edwards CEO Gary Schultz points out that the company typically hosts an annual New Year Kickoff, but this year's event held more significance. 

“This year, because of our 150th anniversary, we turned it into more of a celebration with a variety of activities,” Schultz adds.

The company’s history in the Kalamazoo area traces back to the late 1860s, when it was originally known as Kalamazoo Pant Company. The company focused primarily on the retail market, manufacturing branded men’s and boy’s pants and selling them to various regional outlets. The pant company eventually opened its own men’s clothing store, Redwood and Ross, to market the branded pants. In the 1970s, the original idea for Edwards was born, Schultz explains, after an industrial laundry company approached the manufacturer about producing uniform garments. The name comes from the cross streets where the facility was located, Michigan and Edwards.

While staff has fluctuated since the 1970s, Fred Reeves, an original CEO of the company, still maintains a hand in the business.

 “He (Reeves) is still a chairman, and he’s got the record for the longest tenure with the company,” Schultz says, adding that Reeves’ career spans 48 years.

Schultz’s career at the company spans 15 years, and he says that since his start, one of the most significant things he’s noticed outside of company growth is the way uniform trends have shifted over the years. Shifting production to create more retail-inspired looks and diversify fashions has been a constant, he says.

“It’s uniform and image apparel,” Schultz stresses. “But, it’s looking and feeling more and more like retail every year.”

Today’s staff consists of roughly 180 people, most of which took part in the Jan. 6 celebration. Schultz began the day by presenting employees with a timeline of the company’s evolution, coupled with artifacts from the company’s bygone eras.

“We had a display with memorabilia that a lot of people haven’t seen in a while like pants from the 1970s,” adds Schultz.

A portion of the day’s itinerary acknowledged Edwards employees who have worked at the company for 20 years or more, known as the Legacy Club. This year’s session saw three new employees gain this distinction. To round out the day, Schultz says the company also treated the staff to a prize raffle.

“We’re very optimistic,” Schultz stress, when asked about looking toward the company’s coming years. Finding new ways to meet shifting uniform trends and striving for innovation are two focal points for Edwards on the horizon, he adds.

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