Raised in “a wool town”

Lawrence, Mass., the home of Spector Textiles Inc., has a long history in textiles. In the 1800s, it was “a wool town, the site of many textile mills,” says Howard Spector, the company’s president. This continued well into the 20th century; in the 1930s, his father was using waste wool from these factories to manufacture felt for U.S. Army jackets. But as suppliers’ products changed, so did Spector Textiles’. 

Spector can speak first-hand about much of the company’s history. As the youngest of three boys, he tagged along after his dad. “I was his little buddy on Saturdays and used to hang around the shop,” he says, which was “basically a sorting operation,” at the time. Eventually, he started traveling with his dad to learn for himself about the company’s business relationships, and when he graduated with a business degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 1979, he was ready to join the family business and play an active role in its future.  

Soon after, “A lot of the finishing plants were closing down and we started to lose supply,” he says, “so we turned to other manufacturing.” This approach fueled significant growth for the company over the decades since Spector took a leadership role. He claims “a lot of knowledge about the whole manufacturing concept,” but adds, modestly, “I’m master of none of them.” His general expertise has served the company well over the decades. Today they have 50 employees and are enjoying their best sales year ever—quite a change from “four guys sorting textiles” 32 years earlier.

“We have a pretty flexible product line,” he says. “We really hit a lot of industries.” And they’ve expanded their facility as well, moving into a much larger building in 2006. 

Time for family and service

Spector admits to working long hours—“that’s the thing about self ownership,” he says. But he’s also community oriented and involved at his synagogue, currently serving as its president. He’s also a cyclist and did long-distance riding on behalf of charitable groups, in particular, participating several years in a two-day, 200-mile ride. 

Time off is also spent with his wife and two grown children, who can claim involvement in the business. His son is in law school, but still works in the factory; his daughter, who is pursuing studies in pharmacy, is helped out in the office over holiday break. Even his wife’s dog-walking business has a professional connection: all the dogs sport Spector Textiles’ reflective vests on their outings. 

Making use of IFAI’s resources

His history with IFAI goes back a long ways, too. He calls IFAI’s resources “just wonderful,” for finding fabrics, getting technical information and, in particular, connecting at IFAI Expo Americas. “It’s a good place to go. I see my suppliers there, which saves time,” he says. And the personal connections can pay off in other ways, too. They do quite a lot of business with Apex Mills, Inwood, N.Y., for instance, which exhibits at Expo Americas. “When they get an inquiry, they point them in our direction if they need something manufactured,” he says. “That was brought about by going to the show and spending time in their booth.

“We’ve developed a nice infrastructure because we’ve always been flexible in our manufacturing process,” he says, and adds with a note of pride that their high quality products are “all made right here.”

By Janet Preus, editor, Specialty Fabrics Review