Cap and gown maker opening fourth factory in Virginia
Oak Hall Cap & Gown has been around since 1889, but business hasn’t capped yet.
Because of increased demand, the Salem-based maker of academic, judicial and religious regalia will invest $1.2 million to open a textile operation in Grayson County. The location, expected to open this summer, will create 100 jobs.
Oak Hall Cap & Gown makes caps and gowns for more than 1,700 colleges and universities throughout the country. This year, schools like Michigan State, Vanderbilt University and the University of Missouri System chose Oak Hall Cap & Gown for their regalia, says the company’s president, Joe D’Angelo.
The new factory in Independence will be the company’s fourth plant. It also has facilities in Salem, Wytheville and Chilhowie plus a warehouse in Roanoke. D’Angelo says Oak Hall Cap & Gown has remained committed to manufacturing in Virginia whenever possible. It considered a site in North Carolina for this expansion but was ultimately swayed by the commitment of Grayson County and state officials. The firm also was drawn to the area’s workforce, which had a history with textile manufacturing and would fit into the company’s culture in terms of what they needed for product quality and service.
Most of the jobs at the new facility will be in sewing, D’Angelo says. After the 90-day training period, sewers will be capable of making more than $14 an hour. Oak Hall Cap & Gown also subsidizes more than 70 percent of their employees’ health insurance plans, has a 401(k) plan with a 35 percent company match and offers free life insurance policies, he says.
The company plans to make general upgrades to the existing 85,000-square-foot facility in Independence, which D’Angelo says has been vacant for quite some time. That includes repairing the roof and replacing the heating and air conditioning unit.
For the project, Oak Hall Cap & Gown received a $385,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission, which provides formerly tobacco-dependent communities with money to promote economic development. The Virginia Jobs Investment Program also will provide funding and services to help with employee training activities.
Oak Hall Cap & Gown started as a family-owned, upscale clothing store in Roanoke in 1889. It added tuxedos to the store in the early 1900s and started manufacturing academic regalia in the 1940s. In 1976, the company acquired the New York-based Bentley and Simon Co., which makes robes for colleges and universities and the U.S. Supreme Court justices. Today, Oak Hall Cap & Gown is owned by the Grass family — it changed ownership in 1996 — and has 400 full-time employees.