Alfred’s Upholstery and Flowfold partner up to survive the pandemic and create something new

Maine manufacturers have faced many challenges during the pandemic, from workforce shortages to supply chain issues. To combat those challenges, Maine MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) encourages its clients to join forces and seek new collaborative opportunities. When Maine MEP brought together innovative small businesses Flowfold in Gorham and Alfred’s Upholstery in Alfred, both were able to improve productivity and retain employees.

Alfred’s Upholstery creates premium custom furniture and soft goods, including yacht interiors. But when the pandemic started, the requirements for social distancing combined with a major reduction in customer orders forced Alfred’s owners, Troy and Rebecca Delano, to consider a temporary shutdown. However, shutting down even temporarily would mean loss of income for their employees and the potential loss to the company of their long term, highly skilled employees.

Rebecca Delano chooses fabric. photo credit Molly Haley

Meanwhile, Flowfold, a manufacturer of minimalist wallets and outdoor gear, had begun creating face shields and had won contracts with large Maine accounts such as schools and hospitals, but was struggling to meet the demand.

Fortunately, both Alfred’s and Flowfold are clients of Maine MEP, a comprehensive resource for manufacturers in Maine, who work one-on-one with businesses to address all kinds of challenges. Maine MEP project manager Bill Whittier immediately saw an opportunity to connect the upholstery company to the wallet manufacturers. Whittier got the two companies on the phone, and within one week, Alfred’s was assisting with the manufacturing of Flowfold’s face shields.

Devin McNeill, the CEO at Flowfold, said, “We wouldn’t have been able to scale to meet the face shield market had it not been for Maine MEP’s expertise and connections.”

photo credit Flowfold

With the two companies working in unison to ramp up production, they were able to surpass a sales mark of one million shields. This robust business meant that Alfred’s replaced their lost boatbuilding revenue, retained all of its existing employees and added fifteen new jobs.

With revenue stabilized, Alfred’s owners Troy and Rebecca Delano were able to further invest in state-of-the-art fabric cutting equipment, which in turn allows Alfred’s experienced stitching operators to solely focus on the more value-added task of stitching product, positioning the company to take on significantly more business.

“During the most challenging times we have ever faced, Alfred’s Upholstery & Co. was able to survive and be profitable. The passion and commitment Bill and MEP have for Maine small businesses is an amazing asset for all Maine businesses,” said Troy Delano, the company’s president.