December 14, 2012

Brahms Mount outgrows Hallowell site, may move to Monmouth

Blanket, towel and throw weaver wants to keep manufacturing operation in central Maine

By Susan McMillan smcmillan@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

HALLOWELL -- After nearly 30 years, Brahms Mount has outgrown the 19th-century building where it weaves blankets and towels.

click image to enlarge

Staff graphic by Sharon Wood

Owner David Kaufman said he wants to keep manufacturing in the region and is trying to close a deal on property in Monmouth.

"If it doesn't happen, I'll stay in Hallowell until I find a space that's suitable," he said. "I'm looking at an option for moving the mill, but until I secure a space, it's all up in the air."

Kaufman said he has about 30 employees, up from nine when he bought the company in early 2009. He wants to keep manufacturing in the area in order to retain those employees.

A real estate listing for the mill and store at the corner of Franklin and Central streets says the buildings, totaling 6,000 square feet, will be empty by April 1, 2013. Brahms Mount's Hallowell property is listed for $232,000, and the listing says it would be suitable for businesses, offices, condominiums or apartments.

Brahms Mount may move to 904 Main St. in Monmouth, a 60,000-square-foot building where New Jersey-based Newark Paperboard Products stopped manufacturing paper tubes earlier this year. About 20 people lost their jobs.

The building's owner, Auburn developer George Schott, said it's under contract for sale to a Lewiston textile company, Maine Heritage Weavers, which would lease space to Brahms Mount.

Brahms Mount already has moved its retail store to a 4,450-square-foot space on Freeport's Main Street, and Kaufman said administration, sales and design will be based there, too.

Kaufman said the mill, which once housed Hallowell Granite Co., is too small, and moving heavy cotton and linen between the basement and the first and second floors is inefficient.

Hallowell Mayor Charlotte Warren said the fact that Brahms Mount is expanding is good news, despite Hallowell's loss.

"I don't see it as a negative, because it's not like a business is closing," Warren said. "They're moving very close to us, still in our region, and I'm confident that another business bringing people to our area will move in."

Claudia Brahms and Noel Mount, who still live in Hallowell, founded Brahms Mount in 1983 after meeting at a textile mill in Guilford.

Using old looms gathered from shuttered mills around Maine, they began designing and manufacturing high-end blankets and towels. Brahms Mount products are sold through catalogs and home stores around the country.

Like Brahms Mount, Maine Heritage Weavers produces blankets using processes that are in many ways unchanged since the 19th century.

The company was founded in Lewiston in 2001 after Bates of Maine went out of business. Fred Lebel, a longtime Bates of Maine employee, hired several of his former coworkers to continue producing Bates-style cotton bedspreads.

Susan McMillan -- 621-5645
smcmillan@mainetoday.com

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