Unbeknownst to many, including a large number of Woolrich employees, a science lab exists in the basement of our mill where all fabrics are tested for strength and color consistency. Heading up this this important operation is lab manager, Brendan Reed, who works to maintain a tradition of quality that goes back 185 years.
For the second installment of our People of Woolrich series, we spoke with Brendan about being apart of a growing generation of younger workers at the mill, his recent business venture, Lock Haven Outfitters, and the best canoe routes in Central PA.
How long have you been at Woolrich?
I started at the end of January, 2015, so almost a year and a half.
What’s your background, and how did you get into this role?
I started in the finishing department, but I was only there for a couple of weeks. I quickly moved to the dye house, and worked there for a few months. When Ward (the old Lab Manager) announced he was going to retire, I asked him if he would ever give me a shot at taking over, and he said absolutely. I ended up working with him for 12 weeks before he left. He had been here for 35 years.
So you didn’t come from a science background? You started on the floor?
Yeah, I learned while I was here. I was in the dye house for quite a while, and I really learned a lot about the dyeing process up there. I have first hand experience on how everything works, from the production end to the lab. Having that knowledge really helps with knowing what happens and can happen in the dye house.
Would you agree that the dyeing process is a science and an art?
Yes, absolutely. And our set-up is pretty different from other places. You’ll see computerized methods for color matching in this industry. They’ll plug in a spectrometer, and it will tell you that you need to add this, this, and this to get the right match. Those machines are great in some aspects, but we do everything by eye here.
In addition to working at Woolrich, we understand you also own an outdoor outfitter?
Yup. We currently do kayak rentals and shuttle service. Everything is run off our website, LockHavenOutfitters.com.
Where do people go kayaking around here?
We service from Renovo all the way down to Jersey Shore and then up Pine Creak. We’re pretty flexible. We have different drop points. We also rent stand up paddleboards for people to use in the local lakes.
What’s your favorite local kayaking route?
I like to start out in Bald Eagle Creek up around Castanea and come down the Susquehanna to McElhatten. It takes about 4-5 hours depending on how the water is moving.
How else do you like to spend your time outdoors?
I like to fish. Late spring to early summer is the best time around here. I’ll fish for trout, and then when summer starts to come around, catfish too.
What’s your favorite part about working here?
The community. I love working with the people and you can tell it’s a really tight knit group. Everybody’s friendly. You also don’t have the clashing here that you get at a lot of places.
There’s a younger generation that’s starting to come through the mill now, and we’re all trying to pull as much information and knowledge as possible from the older generation so we can continue the work that goes on here. I think that’s one of the best parts about working here, seeing the people that have been here for 30-40 years and learning from them.