The South at one time was the heart of America's textile industry, but not any more. Those factories have moved even further South to Mexico, so for a local jeans manufacturer to stay in business for 100 years is news.
Even better news: the product they make is truly all-American and as we discovered this all-American product has a large market in Japan.
What goes on in a downtown Bristol factory is probably one of the city's best kept secrets. But how could you keep it a secret when it's been in operation for the last 100 years?
L.C. King Manufacturing has been making their signature bibbed overalls since 1913 and recently was recognized as one of the South's best.
It's still owned and operated by the founding family. "We were really honored last Thursday night in Nashville to receive this award. So we are part of the top 300 small businesses in the South and that's pretty exciting," fourth-generation owner Jack King said.
And this small business makes the world-famous Pointer Brand using all-American products. That's a fact that's important to the company and its employees. "It's very important to me. It should be to every American. I was working when NAFTA came in. Bristol Jeans and everybody went to Mexico, [we've] seen a lot of places go," employee Rhonda Hudson says.
But here they are, still working and still making a quality all-American product.
It's not easily accomplished but the King family has done it. "Keeping the business alive in this economy, in this type of business is just a miracle in itself," employee Linda Watson said.
Loyalty to both product and company are a mainstay for this local hometown business. "Actually I started out inspecting. I inspected, I've done lost track of time how many years I've been here but I inspected I'll say around 20 years," 28-year employee Roxie Blaylock said.
What's amazing is that 40, and soon 50, percent of the product is selling in Japan, not the other way around. It's truly a testament to how hard they work.
"We can turn around a new item, develop it and make and get it on the market within four months, where a typical customer can't do it because they're working with a pattern person in China, then they're working with the manufacturer in China and then you've got to ship it from China. Did you hear how many times I said China? It ain't worth it folks, just keep it here, American made," King adds.
And the congregation says amen.