Fishnet, anyone?

Solid Stone Fabrics sells to entertainment giants and small companies

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Print this page by Joan Tupponce

Entertainers in the “Cirque du Soleil” and “Finding Nemo” shows at Florida’s Walt DisneyWorld Resort can thank Solid Stone Fabrics Inc. for the innovative fabrics in their costumes.

The Martinsville firm developed tie-dyed aquatic fabrics without neon dye for “Finding Nemo.” “There are a lot of scenes where the lights go out and they want the actors to disappear,” explains company president and CEO David Stone. “The fabrics they were using had neon dye and weren’t suited for black lighting.”
Solid Stone Fabrics provides specialty stretch fabrics for everything from dancewear and costumes to swimwear and lingerie. The wholesaler/manufacturer also is the U.S. distributor for Carvico in Italy, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of nylon/Lycra (tricot). “We have a few hundred colors available,” Harris says.

In addition to tricot, the company sells velvets, foils, holograms, glittered items, meshes, fishnets and other fabrics. Besides entertainment giants such as Walt Disney World and Sea World, the company’s clients include smaller costume houses, home sewers, swimwear and gymnastic manufacturers. 

“You could come to us and say ‘I want palm trees and waves’ and we will concept the design,” says Luke Harris, vice president of manufacturing. “A few of our designs have appeared in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. We also supplied a lot of the fabric for “Spiderman” on Broadway.

Stone was living in Martinsville when he opened the business in 2003. “Martinsville is very centrally located on the East Coast,” he says. “It’s a good place to get started because of its low overhead.”

He started the company in his home but relocated after receiving his first large shipment of fabric. “My wife said I needed to find a place so I moved to a business incubator at the West Piedmont Business Development Center for a couple of years,” he said. “It was low rent and great while I was in the growth stage.”

In 2008, the company moved into its current 24,000-square-foot location where it has 15 full-time and several part-time employees. It also has a sales office in New Jersey with one employee.

According to Stone, company sales grew 30 percent each year from 2003 to 2008. This year, sales are approximately 50 percent ahead of 2010. “We are seeing continued growth,” Stone says. “Our fabric printing sales have doubled over 2010 and our fabrics for dancewear, swimwear and active apparel are showing robust sales.”

In 2010, the Tayloe Murphy Center, in the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, recognized Solid Stone for its continued success and presented the company with the Resilience Award for small business manufacturing. “We are a small Virginia business that has been able to thrive in tough times,” says Stone. “About 120 companies entered and five won awards.”

In addition to being Solid Stone’s headquarters, Martinsville is home to a couple of museums. The Virginia Museum of Natural History provides exhibits and education around the state’s natural history, and the Southern Virginia Artisan Center helps local and regional artisans showcase their work. Visitors also will find the historic half-mile Martinsville Speedway track, which hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as well as Smith Mountain Lake and Smith River, known for its trout fishing. 

The town’s economy
The Martinsville area has several logistics and distribution companies along with plastics and polymer processors. Major employers include polyester fiber manufacturer Springs Global US Inc. and felt liner manufacturer Applied Felts along with apparel distributors HanesBrands and Nautica. The area’s economy got a boost recently when global professional services firm ICF International established a temporary location while building its first operations center for business process management in Henry County. Plus, Southern Finishing Co. Inc. consolidated its eastern U.S. operation to Martinsville, creating 67 new jobs. The company manufactures prefinished components for the cabinet industry.

Where to stay
The Martinsville/Henry County area offers many chain hotels from which to choose. The area also is a home to Primland, a Blue Ridge Mountain resort with golf, fishing, horseback riding, mountain biking and tennis along with a spa. Other choices include DutchiesView, a bed and breakfast in Woolwine, which features views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and The Clubhouse Resort, fronting the Smith River in Fieldale. The resort was built in 1917 as a clubhouse for Marshall Field & Co.

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