Q&A: Siler City’s Charter Furniture re-purposing operations for cloth masks

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 5/1/20

SILER CITY — Along with other organizations in Chatham County, ranging from the nonprofit Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge to medical device manufacturer Gilero, Charter Furniture has begun to tailor …

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Q&A: Siler City’s Charter Furniture re-purposing operations for cloth masks

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Posted

SILER CITY — Along with other organizations in Chatham County, ranging from the nonprofit Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge to medical device manufacturer Gilero, Charter Furniture has begun to tailor its facilities and equipment to helping in the fight against COVID-19.

The Siler City-based furniture manufacturer, which is owned by national company Brown Jordan, is making cloth masks specifically for businesses, including an initial delivery of around 300 masks to Brookwood Farms, also in Siler City. Company Senior VP of Operations and Continuous Improvement Lorenzo Mendoza spoke to the News + Record about the effort. The answers have been edited for clarity.

Why is Charter Furniture taking this step to produce cloth masks?

Because it is the right thing to do. Brown Jordan CEO Gene Moriarty, Charter Furniture President Rick Dawson and Brown Jordan COO Jerry Redmond were clear in their direction about protecting our nearly 250 employees, 150 of whom work locally in Liberty and Siler City. Along with following safe distancing and extra hygiene precautions, providing masks was the next step to provide a safer work context. Amid the scarcity of PPE [personal protective equipment], manufacturing our own masks was just logical. Our masks are a precise fit for industrious organizations, manufacturing, processing, warehousing, distribution and retailers looking to provide their employees protection at a very low cost. On top of that, we’ll be blessed if we can keep our employees working safely in these uncertain times.

How many masks are being made per day/week/etc.?

During our initial prototyping phase, we’ve been producing anywhere between 500 and 1,000 face masks per day, although we can ramp up very rapidly as needed. We are now producing face masks in large and small-medium sizes, in black and white spun bond non-woven fabrics.

How did you get connected with Brookwood Farms?

Charter requested support and direction from the Chatham Economic Development Corporation to promote the masks. That same day, (EDC Project Manager) Sam Rauf introduced Charter to Twig Wood, president and owner of Brookwood Farms, as they were looking for masks to equip their employees. We were honored to help and delivered the first few masks in the county to Brookwood Farms. After all, we’ve been long-time fans of their products. We are grateful as we’ve had great support from the Chatham Economic Development Corporation, and through these challenging times, they’ve been there for us.

Are there plans to make more masks?

Yes. We are actively delivering product samples, promoting our face mask products throughout different channels, and have full corporate support to scale up as needed.

How many of your employees are working on the masks?

At this time, we have had five employees involved in developing and manufacturing the face masks, but certainly have a strong employee interest in joining and participating on building masks.

Are Charter’s normal operations still continuing?

We will be pausing operations for the next two weeks, as most of our customers and suppliers are not operational. At the same time, we are optimistic and expect to see the stay-at-home mandates lifted sooner. We pray for that.

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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