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The Story of EnMart Part 2: Iris Thread

29th May 2013

The Story of EnMart Part 2: Iris Thread

h_iris_logo newWe all know machine embroidery thread has changed over the years.   When Ensign Emblem started in 1974,  there range of choices wasn’t as large as it is now.   Over the years,  Ensign has probably embroidered with almost every thread still on the market today,  as well as some that no longer are sold.   The company has embroidered with cotton thread,  nylon thread,   polyester thread,  rayon thread and struggled,  like every other embroidery company out there,  with color fastness issues,  thread break issues,  and thread related production issues.    The search for a thread that worked better for the company’s purposes was a constant thing.

Iris machine embroidery thread actually came to our notice because we were looking for a new merrow floss supplier.   For those who don’t know,  merrow floss  is the thread used to create the borders on our emblems and,  for our purposes it needs to be strong,  washfast,  and colorfast.  It also needs to be able to withstand high heat and not sublimate.   The merrow floss we were using when Hilos Iris came to our attention was not meeting our needs,  and the available options of which we were aware were either ones we’d already tried or not appealing.  A new source opened up new options and, after working with Hilos Iris,  got us a merrow floss that met our requirements.    Once we had the merrow floss in place,  it was a short jump to someone saying “Have you tried our machine embroidery thread?”  and Iris UltraBrite Polyester and Smooth ‘N Silky Rayon entered our lives.

Ensign Emblem and Hilos Iris worked together for about six months to create a machine embroidery thread that met Ensign’s needs.   The thread had to be strong,  durable,  washfast and colorfast, able to withstand high heat so the color wouldn’t sublimate and available  at a price point that was reasonable.   We also needed a standard set of available colors as well as the ability to have specialty colors dyed and stocked.  Hilos Iris already had a color card for their polyester thread with 300 colors,  and they had a state of the art dye house which made creating custom colors possible.   In October of 2007,  Ensign Emblem’s President,  Gayle Zreliak,  recorded her memories of her visit to the Hilos Iris facility on the EnMart blog.  After working together and after that visit,  it became apparent the two companies had a great deal in common.  Like Ensign Emblem,  Hilos Iris was family owned.  Both companies had been successful for a number of years.   Each company had a commitment to quality.    As Hilos and Ensign worked together to create a better machine embroidery thread,  a partnership was formed.  Since Hilos Iris,  based in Mexico,  had been looking for a way to break into the U.S. Market,  it wasn’t much of a step for discussions about how Ensign could be part of that goal.

posted in About EnMart, Hilos Iris, Thread | Comments Off

24th May 2013

The Story of EnMart Part 1: Ensign Emblem

original_ensign_logoIt has been said that many great companies start with a simple idea.  Ed Benjamin, one of the founders of Ensign Emblem, had such an idea.  He believed every customer was worthy of superior customer service and excellent product, regardless of their size or budget.  The Benjamin family had been part of the Industrial Laundry Market for several years, and Ed gradually realized that this simple idea was something other companies in the marketplace hadn’t yet discovered.  So, believing they had could create a company unique to the industry, the Benjamin family founded Ensign Emblem in 1974.

Ed Benjamin and his daughter Gayle established Ensign Emblem in Detroit, Michigan. Gayle, fresh from college, joined her father in developing a company that would always be responsive to customers, providing excellent service and product to companies of all sizes.  Gayle’s drive for perfection and Ed’s passion for excellence allowed them to form a company that inspired, and still inspires, loyalty from both customers and employees.  After 15 successful years in Detroit, the company headquarters moved to Traverse City in Northern Michigan in 1989.  Traverse City’s reputation as a small town with big city amenities made it a perfect place to raise a family and grow a company.

Once the company was settled in Traverse City, the next four years were spent determining where and how to grow.  In 1993, Ed Benjamin decided to retire and sold his share of the company’s stock to Gayle, who became Company President. Gayle, who had developed ambitious plans for the company, immediately began to implement those plans.  In April of 1993, Ensign opened its Lawrenceville plant, just outside Atlanta, Georgia. This new location was an immediate success, and paved the way for the opening of the Decatur plant in Illinois in April of 1994. As the company continued to grow, a fourth production facility was opened in February of 1997 in Reno, Nevada.  The Reno plant remained in Nevada until August of 2002, when was moved to Los Angeles, California. This strategic move allowed the company to better accommodate clients in the western United States.  As the company continued to move from success to success, the need for a fifth production facility became evident. In October of 2005, the company again established a production facility in Reno, Nevada.  In 2008,  Ensign added a facility in New Jersey,  bringing the total number of Ensign locations to six.

Ensign Emblem’s core products had always been emblems and direct embroidery,   and over the years the company had used a ton of machine embroidery thread from most of the major manufacturers.   Some threads worked well and some didn’t work so well,  but none had exactly the right combination of shine, strength,  and durability that was needed to survive an industrial wash and dry.   Luckily,  a new thread,  and the genesis of a new company, was on the horizon.

Next Week:  Ensign finds a new machine embroidery thread and a reason to create a new company. 


posted in About EnMart | Comments Off

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