American Textile gets down to business

American Textile gets down to businessDuquesne, Pa. – The home textiles industry is one whose history is very much defined by family businesses. And for everyone that has endured into the second or even third generation, there are multiple examples of those that have not been so fortunate.
Then there’s American Textile Co., the utility and bedding products company that is solidly in its third generation, one that has expanded the company’s offerings – not to mention its business – far beyond its humble origins.
Just two years shy of its 90th anniversary, ATC has become a major player in the mattress protector and pillow and pad business and has just entered the sheet business.
But don’t let that family business label get in the way of understanding ATC. “We run this company as a business, not for the family,” said Blake Ruttenberg, executive vice president.
Along with his brother, Lance, who is president and chief operating officer, the two run what has become a very large company with offices and production facilities around the world. While the company doesn’t disclose overall sales, Blake Ruttenberg said it has experienced compounded annual growth of 12% over the past five years.
The company’s core product remains pillow and mattress protectors, but in 2006 it branched out into sleep pillows, mattress pads and comforters and this year moved into sheeting.
It’s a long way from ATC’s origins in 1925 in the steel country of Pittsburgh. Founded by the brothers’ grandfather and uncle, the company’s first product was indeed a mattress cover, but it really came into its own ten years later with Charles Ruttenberg’s invention of the fitted ironing board cover.
As the years progressed and the brothers’ father Reid took the reins of the company, American Textile branched out into all sorts of products, from gas mask components in World War II to American flags when the state count went to 50 with Alaska and Hawaii entering into the Union.
It was during the 1990s that the ATC the industry knows today really began to crystalize. Jack Ouelette had come on board to run the company, and Lance and Blake became more involved in operations and sales and marketing.
In the early part of the decade came the introduction of its Aller-Ease brand, marking the first popularly priced allergen barrier cover in the industry. Aller-Ease would grow to an entire family of products and become the backbone of ATC.
In 1995, ATC moved into the pillow business, its first order coming from Linens’n Things. Mattress pads and comforters followed over the years and then most recently it introduced the EvenTemp line of temperature regulating sheets and other products.
Also this year, ATC moved into its first line of licensed products, picking up the Sealy brand for utility bedding and white goods. Blake Ruttenberg said the company was looking at additional licensed brands but that nothing was ready to be announced yet.
The third leg of the ATC branding strategy remains private label and store brands, which still account for the largest share of the company’s sales.
In the meantime the company’s physical presence was growing as well. It moved into its current corporate headquarters, which also includes manufacturing and distribution, here in 2003. The 200,000-square-foot facility is located on the grounds of a former steel mill on the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
In 2007 it opened facilities in Salt Lake City and Dallas and later another plant in Tifton, ga. plus an office in Davidson, N.C. outside of Charlotte.
There was international expansion, too. In 1994, ATC began making products in El Salvador and in 2011 it opened an office in Shanghai that is now staffed by eight people.
All in all, ATC has 400 employees and has opened some 750,000 square feet of facilities over the past decade.
The Ruttenberg brothers, joined by their father Reid, who continues as chairman emeritus, and Ouelette, now executive chairman, said the growth for ATC is far from over. Blake Ruttenberg noted, “Every one of our categories will grow in 2013.”
ATC will build on all categories at the New York Home Fashions Market this month. While the company didn’t want to disclose many specifics, it did say its market introductions will reflect the results of a major research study it completed earlier this year with several thousand consumers.
In addition its Aller-Ease and EvenTemp lines will be expanded with new offerings and constructions.
And all of this comes as the company works to remain true to its core corporate principles. “We are committed to remaining pioneers in the industry,” ATC says on its website, “and our philosophy of building great teams focused on superior execution and innovation will continue to drive our success.”
That success may be built on a family foundation but it’s all still very much about business at American Textile.

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