PIQUA — A local manufacturer is closing its doors after more than a century of business.
On Thursday afternoon, Orr Felt closed.
“Today is the last day,” Melody Weaver, president of the union at Orr Felt, said. “The writing’s been on the wall for a long time.”
Weaver first started working at Orr Felt shortly after she graduated high school. She worked there for nine years before taking a break when she had her kids. Weaver then went back to work at Orr Felt in 1985 and has been with them for 31 years.
“They’ve been so good to me, so I’ve got no complaints,” Weaver said.
Weaver added that it is the industry itself that has been taking a hit.
“It’s just the paper industry,” Weaver said. “It’s just tough competition.”
Weaver added that for some employees, unfortunately, the plant closing did take them by surprise.
“I think everybody will come out OK in the end,” Weaver said.
She said she did not forsee any of the former employees there having trouble getting another job. Weaver said the company brought in outside representatives on Thursday to help the employees with the transition and inform them about different job and learning opportunities. According to Weaver, Orr Felt had 27 union employees.
“We’ve got a great workforce,” Weaver said. “I think most of them will find a job soon.”
As for Weaver’s personal plans now that Orr Felt is closed, she said that she is going to take a couple weeks to take care of some medical issues and then jump right back into the workforce.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” Weaver said about her time at Orr Felt. “Met a lot of good people.”
Orr Felt traces its history to 1848, when Young and Yeager Textiles in Piqua, one of the first textile companies in the Midwest, began producing woolen fabrics, fleeces and coarse materials.
In 1901, A.M. Orr and his father, Colonel W.P. Orr bought the company and reorganized it as the Orr Felt Company, manufacturing blankets and papermaker’s felt.
The 1913 flood caused extensive damage to the plant and equipment. After repairs were completed, the plant was scheduled to reopen. The day before reopening, the plant was destroyed by fire. Following rebuilding, the company discontinued the manufacture of worsteds, a type of wool yarn.
The company maintained slow, steady growth during the Depression.
During World War II, The Orr Felt Company produced about 250,000 blankets for the Army and Navy, plus olive drab woolen lining, which was used in military sleeping bags.
In 1964, under new owner Dimitri P. Nicholas, the company reorganized and replaced old machinery with modern production equipment. In 1990, Nicholas sold the company to his family. Today, his son, Dimitri M. Nicholas was president and retained sole ownership of the company until its closing.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336. Melody Vallieu contributed to this story.