Gulistan Carpets Closing Down, Putting 400 Out of Work
The New Year won't be too happy for employees of one longtime Aberdeen manufacturing business.
Gulistan Carpet is closing its operations in Aberdeen and Wagram, eliminating nearly 400 jobs, according to a letter the company has sent to employees. A majority of the jobs lost will come from the larger Aberdeen facility.
The Aberdeen property has been owned by several companies and has produced textiles and carpets there since 1957. Gulistan Carpet Inc. has been operating there since 1995. At one time, the plant was the largest employer in Moore County.
The letter, which has been confirmed for The Pilot by an anonymous company employee, was sent out Friday to employees. The letter states that the company is "in the process of permanently winding down all operations" at its facilities on N.C. 5 in Aberdeen and on Airbase Road in Wagram "beginning immediately and continuing over the course of approximately the next four months."
Messages left for representatives from Gulistan Monday were not returned.
The news of the closing caught many off guard.
Aberdeen Mayor Betsy Mofield said the closing is "awful" and "a terrible blow to the economy of Moore County."
"That business was a main staple of industry in Aberdeen for a very long time," the mayor said.
Aberdeen Commissioner Robbie Farrell said he can't remember a time in his life without the mill.
"It's been there all my life," Farrell said. "I don't remember a time when some company wasn't operating that mill."
Farrell said he recalls working in the plant for three months in the summer of 1966. He worked in the shipping department prior to going off to college that fall.
"I remember putting labels on those carpets that were going to Australia, Canada and other countries," he said. "They were being shipped all over the world. This in not only a loss to Moore County but it is also a loss to the region."
Nick Picerno, chairman of the Moore County Board of Commissioners, said his heart goes out to everyone who is affected by the closure.
"Being that we are a relatively small county, I have a lot of friends who are going to lose their jobs," Picerno said. "And it saddens me to see good, hardworking Moore Countians lose their jobs. But we as commissioners will continue to work hard to bring businesses to the county and try to get these people opportunities to be re-employed."
The letter indicates that employees will be terminated "incrementally in conjunction with the winding down of operations, which will result in the layoff of the company's approximately 395 full-time and part-time employees."
The letter also provided each employee with a itemized list estimating termination dates. The layoffs are to occur over the next four months, according to the letter.
The letter indicated that the company has made "substantial efforts" over the past few years to restructure its debts and its business and continue to operate or postpone the shutdown. Those efforts, the letter states, "have been unsuccessful to date."
Mofield said had she had known about the company's troubles earlier, the Town Board would have tried to work with company officials to prevent the closing.
"I don't know that there is anything that we can do at this point to encourage them to change their mind but we will definitely try," she said.
The letter indicates that some company assets were sold through a private sale conducted by Bank of America, and that Gulistan intends to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy for the "orderly sale of the remaining assets."
'Window of Time'
Pat Corso, executive director of Partners in Progress, the county's economic development agency, said the organization will be working with the N.C. Department of Commerce to help find a buyer for the business.
"Because they are winding down operations, I think there is still a window of time to work on that," Corso said.
Gene Norton director of the Aberdeen office of the state Division of Employment Services, said his office had been informed by Gulistan of the elimination of about 40 jobs in December.
"Apparently there is more to it than what they told us," Norton said. This is going to be impactful, especially to those who are going to lose their jobs. It is not going to help the economy overall."
Norton said Moore County's unemployment rate has decreased over the past three months, and could go down again in December, because the full brunt of the Gulistan closing won't be reflected yet.
Norton said the impact of the lost jobs on the economy will be determined by how many of the employees are laid off at any one time.
"How much this effects the economy will be how quickly they (Gulistan) get folks laid off, and then how quickly we can get them back to work," Norton said. "The economy in Moore County s not able to pick up 300 people at any one time, but one thing that will help us is this is likely going to be over a period of time."
Norton said he, along with officials from Partners in Progress and Sandhills Community College, hope to meet with representatives from Gulistan soon to discuss options for those employees who will lose their jobs. He said his goal is to be able to work with Gulistan employees while they remain employed and help them get resumes ready and learn about retraining options.
The carpet mill, currently owned by Gulistan Carpet, has a long history in Aberdeen.
The company began manufacturing under the Gulistan name in 1924, but the company's roots go back to an Armenian textile importer who founded a business in Turkey in 1818, according to the company website. His only children, Arshag and Miran Karagheusian, inherited their father's business.
Gulistan, which is the title of a 13th century Persian poem, means "garden of roses," purchased its Aberdeen plant in 1957. Seven years later, in 1964, Stevens & Co. purchased A&M Karagheusian and the Gulistan name.
In 1988, JPS Textile Group Inc. purchased the firm, and the division became JPS Carpet Corp. In 1995, in-house mill executives bought the company and renamed it "Gulistan Carpet, Inc."
The closing is the second large business to close its doors in Moore County this year. The American Growler plant in Robbins closed in October, putting about 50 employees out of work. The company built vehicles for the U.S. military. The last major textile manufacturing business to close in the county was Carthage Fabrics, which shutdown in 2007.
"I hate to see it go, " Farrell said. "The only thing we can hope now is that another company will come in there and find another use for the building and bring back at least some of those 400 jobs."
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or tem brey @thepilot.com.
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