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Labor Day: Stories from Pendleton’s People

Ed. note–For Labor Day, we bring you stories by those who work for us day and and day out. Their employment with out company ranges from one to fifty years. The video above, filmed in one of our union mills, is by Jay Carroll (thanks, Jay). 

Amanda Coppa—Product Manager, Home Division—July 2007 through present

My career experience at Pendleton has been an excellent and unique one. In nearly nine years with the Home Division I have continually evolved my position. Starting as the Home Merchandise coordinator and today I manage all the in-line and custom/collaboration Product Development for the division. I feel very fortunate to have a role where every day I am doing something different. When I started I was told I would be wearing a lot of hats. I’ve always found this appealing in a job and wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m fortunate to work for a boss that has much confidence in our abilities and vision.

In addition to exploring new product categories, I love working on the custom and collaboration blanket and fabric developments. I am the liaison between the partner (Levis, UGG, Nike, Ace Hotel, Subaru and Poler for example) and our internal Pendleton teams – Fabric Design, Production and Sales. From a custom blanket or fabric to a hooded Poncho towel I handle the process from concept to production set-up. Another exciting part of my position is traveling to accounts for sales calls and tradeshows. This has taken me to many big cities, but also some places I never thought I would go… Dodgeville, WI – High Point, NC – Buffalo, NY.

One of the reasons I enjoy working here the most is my team I spend each and every day with. We not only do good work, we have fun doing it. I have quite a few great Pendleton memories, but the top three would be managing the Star Wars project, my first inspiration trip to the Southwest and the 2009 Sales Meeting in Pendleton, OR to celebrate our centennial. I know I’m in the right place and speak enthusiastically about my career when my 3 year old son already has a passion for what I do and had decided his first dog’s name is going to be “Pendleton”.

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Brooke Myers—Retail Store Associate, Lancaster, PA—2015 through present

When I was younger, I did not necessarily see myself working in retail. As most children do, I saw myself doing something big – something exciting, something that would keep me on my toes and intrigue me every day. These descriptions usually do not come to mind when one says they work in retail. Working for Pendleton Woolen Mills has been a completely different experience. Who would have thought that you could be not only a salesperson, a manager; but also a historian, an explorer, and lastly a valued member of a family – not just another employee? My experience working for Pendleton has not been an ordinary one and I mean that in the best way possible.

Rich in history and heritage, the story of this company has captivated me from the beginning. Every day that I come to work I am eager to find out more. From its origins in North American exploration, Native American trade and legend, to the evolution of men’s and women’s fashion and style, the Pendleton story is not one easily forgotten. It brings me so much fulfillment to learn about the roots of this company and share the many stories of our past with others.

Another component of the multi-faceted brand of Pendleton that continues to make every day of work rewarding is the emphasis and dedication to our National Parks. By creating excitement through product and educating others about our parks, we are not only contributing to our parks monetarily but cultivating an environment that stresses the importance of the preservation and protection of our beautiful country.

Since I have started working for Pendleton Woolen Mills a little over a year ago, I can confidently say that I am now intertwined and attached to the history, craftsmanship, and uniqueness of this company. It makes my job easier knowing that I am part of a family that is dedicated to not only their brand and product, but also their employees and customers.

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Lakshmi Sylvie Dady—2015 through 2016

Pendleton has been a part of my family since we migrated to this country from Guyana, South America two generations ago. It has been a great joy to continue the family tradition of working in textiles and fashion as a Pendleton employee. Although I am new to the company, the brand has a rich history that transcends corporate identity and is part of my family’s story.

Having owned her own accessory company in Guyana, South America, my German-born grandmother was immediately drawn to the Pendleton brand upon her arrival to Milwaukie, Oregon. She encouraged my mother to get an after school job in the Pendleton mill near their home. My mother, then a mere 16 years of age, quickly learned the hard work that goes into producing the high quality Pendleton products our family coveted. Mama went on to a career in nursing and eventually followed in her mother’s footsteps of owning her own company, manufacturing fashion forward scrubs called “It’s What’s on the Inside that Counts.” Surely her humble beginnings in the mill helped build the foundation for creating her own textile business years later.

Growing up in the Northwest, Pendleton is as much a part of being an Oregonian as is relishing the rain. From my Native best friend whose parents draped themselves and their home in the rich colors and patterns of Pendleton to receiving a full outfit from the company as a Rose Festival Princess in 2009, Pendleton patterns are the unofficial flag of this fine state. Going into the corporate office to get custom fitted for my Pendleton outfit as Cleveland High Schools Rose Festival Princess remains a highlight of my experience on the court. I still relish my sesquicentennial ‘Spirit of the People’ patterned skirt, glass case, notebook cover and purse gifted by the company. The company went so far as to sew custom labels with our title and name onto our skirts, I smile every time I see my “Princess Sylvie” tag.

My love for this brand has only grown over time and gifts from it continue to be highly valued amongst my family. Upon my return to Portland after 7 years away for undergrad and graduate school, I was thrilled to see a position open at the Pendleton store at the Portland International Airport. I’ve been with the company since March, 2016 and thoroughly enjoy continuing the family tradition of working for America’s greatest woolen mill.

It’s been a pleasure reflecting on my Pendleton story and I hope you feel inspired to continue creating yours.

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Verna J. Ashton—1966 through 2016 with assistance to:

Strategical Services Head, Ed Pedley

Fabric Design Dept. Head, John Jouret

Presidents C.M. Bishop, Jr. and C.M. Bishop III

 

Although the scrapbooks confirm a mid-60’s employment record with Pendleton Woolen Mills, my personal connection begins a few years earlier.  When I met my future husband, Richard Ashton, at High School, his father, Howard Ashton, worked for the Bureau of U.S. Customs and his office just happened to be located on the 2nd floor, NE corner of the old / former US. Custom’s Building directly across the street West of the current Pendleton Building (if he were still there, my office window would have looked directly into his!).  He often told us of his travels for the day and related several times when he was assigned to go to the docks to inspect bales of wool being brought into the country from Australia or New Zealand to be delivered to Pendleton’s Columbia Wool Scouring Plant – beginning the process of becoming fine woolen fabrics.  Additionally, my future Mother-in-law, Marion Ashton, worked as a spinner at Pendleton’s Foundation Factory Plant and it was there that she obtained fabrics for hand-sewn shirts for her son and gave me the remnants so I could make matching garments.  Our matching outfits were always commented on at school and especially the red/black plaids worn on “spirit day” as those were our school colors.

Connections first through the Ashton family, and yes, Richard too was employed summers and even refinished the wood floors in the Foundation Plant along with the Brot Bishop boys; but it was through my sister, Malinda Pfeifle Staples, that I became acquainted with Pendleton as my employer as she held the secretary position under Ed Pedley in Statistical Services. In April 1966 I had a choice to make – either continue studies at Portland State College or take the offer at Pendleton to work for Mr. Pedley – my sister was leaving to begin her family.  Thus began a life journey that though the formal career has now officially concluded with retirement on April 29th, I am in the finishing room. The friendships, relationships, business associations and memories are completing my life-story tapestry by attaching the binding edges.

My story begins with being honored to meet and know C. M. Bishop until his passing in 1969; a never-to-be forgotten innocent and embarrassing blunder voiced during a National Sales Meeting at Salishan Lodge (Coffee, Tea or… how does that go?!); Shorthand learned in High School proved invaluable when asked to take notes from the Ambassador to Romania (Alan Green) while vising with his friend C. M. Bishop,  Jr.; Sitting at the feet of Ms. Pat Mitchell (who had been secretary to C. M. Bishop) learning valuable history, skills and understanding.  Pat will celebrate 107 years of life this August; Letters and phone calls to our Nation’s President George Bush (the elder Bush) as well as many other US Representatives, State Governors and political figures who were friends to the Bishop family; Assisting Portland’s current First Lady, Nancy Hales, in her mission for Pendleton gifts to take abroad for government dignitaries on the Mayor’s travels, and garments to wear herself – a true Pendleton Ambassador; Relationships with Round-Up personalities, Queen Whitney White in 2007, Native American Elders…

But long before hearing Mr. B’s (C.M. Bishop, Jr.) 1993 corporate speech quoting  a 1941 inscription written to him by his Father, C. M. Bishop, on the flyleaf of his co-authored book “Pioneer Woolen Mills in Oregon,” I felt and experienced these words  “… the best inheritance to receive or to leave is a good name” lived out not only through the Bishop men and Management of the Company, but also every one of the women – wives, aunts, sisters, and daughters – in their consistent and constant sweet spirits, graciousness and courtesies. “ I subscribe to a belief that as Pendleton has been blessed with the ability to create through the woven thread beautiful fabrics and designs that many covet, cherish and last a lifetime, God is weaving our life-story through our relationships and responses to His shuttle.

Pendleton Woolen Mills and the Bishop family have and are leaving that good name and reputation for future generations.  Honesty, integrity, the Golden Rule standard are the legacy that keeps Pendleton great and America strong.  God bless America and God bless Pendleton Woolen Mills.  Cheers!

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