Draper Co. still going strong after nearly 160 years

By
The Draper family: (front row) Wendy (Draper) Barrows, sample coordinator and research and development assistant; Kristin Draper, president and general manager; Lynn (Draper) Hover, office manager; (back row) Rick Barrows, knitting supervisor; Scott Draper, VP (former president); and Bill Shaul (Kristin’s husband), production manager

The Draper family: (front row) Wendy (Draper) Barrows, sample coordinator and research and development assistant; Kristin Draper, president and general manager; Lynn (Draper) Hover, office manager; (back row) Rick Barrows, knitting supervisor; Scott Draper, VP (former president); and Bill Shaul (Kristin’s husband), production manager

Kristin Draper is the sixth generation member of the Draper family to work in the family business, which includes the Draper Knitting Company, Draper Properties, and Draper Therapies. The Canton-based business has stayed true to its roots yet continues to evolve and grow, most recently with the purchase of a massive, state-of-the-art new dryer that now occupies hundreds of square feet of warehouse property.

Brothers James and Thomas Draper arrived in Massachusetts in the mid 1800s and created the original Draper Brothers’ Company, a textile manufacturing business, in 1856. Scott Draper, Kristin’s father, grew up in Canton, and he married Barbara Bulloch, also of Canton. The couple divorced when Kristin was young and she was raised in Palmer with her sisters, but she grew up hearing about the family business.

“I always knew from [age] 6 or 7 that I wanted to be president of Draper Brothers,” she said. “I love this place. Textiles are really cool for me.”

Kristin began working at Draper Brothers in 1988. “I was a trainee in every department in the mill for two weeks apiece to understand the responsibility of each person’s job,” she said.

She joked that her father finally said to her, “You’ve been a trainee for 18 years. Okay, now you’re the president.” They switched roles in 2009 and Scott became his daughter’s vice president.

Kristin explained that Draper Knitting has three kinds of fabric formats under one roof. They produce nonwoven stitch-bonded fabrics, such as fire-resistant liner fabrics used in firefighters’ gloves. They also produce conventional circular knitting fabrics, including shoe and boot liners, jersey and t-shirt fabrics, as well as high-pile sliver knitting fabric — a fuzzy fabric used to make products that range from Canton Bulldog blankets to paint rollers.

Kristin is so knowledgeable about the company’s products that she can walk through the warehouse and identify which fabric is destined for which one of Draper’s clients, such as Patagonia, a California-based outdoor clothing company. Some of the fabric is shipped to clients, while other fabric is used to create products by in-house knitters.

The Draper Knitting Company is a mix of old and new machinery as well as old and new technologies. “We don’t replace it if it does the job,” Kristin said of the equipment on the floor. “We have some from the 1940s and some state-of-the-art machines.”

One of the newest machines at Draper Knitting is the aforementioned dryer. It cost $750,000 and was purchased with the help of a loan from the Bank of Canton. Product Manager Paul Medeiros handled the research and selected a model from South Korea. Two technicians traveled from South Korea to Canton, spending about five weeks teaching the staff how to operate the equipment.

“They spoke almost no English,” Kristin recalled. “It was remarkable to watch. They taught us how to do this.”

Product Manager Paul Medeiros and President Kristin Draper stand on the operator's perch of Draper's new dryer.

Product Manager Paul Medeiros and President Kristin Draper stand on the operator’s perch of Draper’s new dryer.

The dryer is used on fabrics after a durable water-resistant (DWR) finish has been applied. Before the installation of the new dryer, employees used to add the DWR and then physically run with the fabric to the old dryer in order to get the drying process underway as quickly as possible so that the DWR did not have time to seep through and create unevenness in the finished product. The new dryer has the capacity and size to handle both the application of the DWR and the drying process.

“It has so many options,” Draper said of the new machine. “Almost everyone got to be involved. It was a community effort.”

The company has tried to stay current in a U.S. economy that has seen a number of manufacturing opportunities shipped overseas. One of those innovations is Draper Therapies, a division of Draper Knitting Company. Draper Therapies offers products made with Celliant technology for both humans and animals.

“It increases circulation,” Kristin said of Celliant. The catalogue features men’s and women’s t-shirts, walking socks, travel blankets, body wraps, cat mats, dog blankets, and a whole line of boots/wraps and saddle pads for horses.

Despite the modern advances at Draper Knitting, the company is still all about family, the way it was when James and Thomas Draper started in 1856. Kristin’s sister Lynn Hover has been the office manager for three years, and her sister Wendy Barrow has been part of the development team for six years. Wendy’s husband, Rick Barrows, also works for Draper.

Kristin met her husband, production manager Bill Shaul, at the office. Kristin has a son, Kevin Driscoll, a graduate of Blue Hills Regional School, and the Shauls have a daughter, Elizabeth, who is in seventh grade at the Galvin Middle School.

Dave Wedge is a third generation employee; Gary Butterworth and Dave Loving have worked for Draper for over 40 years each; and sisters Cheryl Brown and Patty Blais followed their mother to Draper.

“I love this place,” Kristin said. “This is definitely a family. I’ve worked with so many people for so many years. Even if it’s not blood, it’s still family, and that’s just cool.”

Share This Post

Short URL: http://www.thecantoncitizen.com/?p=27827

avatar Posted by on Dec 11 2014. Filed under Business. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
Canton Citizen Absolute Landscaping

Search Archive

Search by Date
Search by Category
Search with Google
Log in | Copyright Canton Citizen 2011