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Ragged Mountain co-owners Rob Nadar (left) and Court Hansen pose in front of their sign at the store in Intervale Wednesday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Debbie Nadeau works on a cover stitch on in the production area at Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale during the tour Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Mary Keaten works on a garment in the production area at Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale during the tour Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Several patterns are seen hanging on the left while Brock Lessard works on making up a template in the production area at Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale during the tour Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Several bats of material is seen in the production area at Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale during the tour Tuesday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)



Co-owner of Ragged Mountain Equipment Rob Nadar explains some of the material used in their outdoor clothing and equipment manufactured in Intervale during the tour Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Co-owner of Ragged Mountain Equipment Rob Nadar explains some of the material used in their outdoor clothing and equipment manufactured in Intervale during the tour Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

A Ragged Mountain tag predominately shows the “Made In U.S.A.” graphic seen in the store Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Co-owner of Ragged Mountain Equipment Rob Nadar shows some of the totes and bags seen on display in the retail area of the facility Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Ragged Mountain Equipment totes and bags are seen on display in the retail of the facility Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Ragged Mountain co-owners Rob Nadar (left) and Court Hansen pose in front of their sign at the store in Intervale Wednesday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Debbie Nadeau works on a cover stitch on in the production area at Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale during the tour Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Mary Keaten works on a garment in the production area at Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale during the tour Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Several patterns are seen hanging on the left while Brock Lessard works on making up a template in the production area at Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale during the tour Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Several bats of material is seen in the production area at Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale during the tour Tuesday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Co-owner of Ragged Mountain Equipment Rob Nadar explains some of the material used in their outdoor clothing and equipment manufactured in Intervale during the tour Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

A Ragged Mountain tag predominately shows the “Made In U.S.A.” graphic seen in the store Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Co-owner of Ragged Mountain Equipment Rob Nadar shows some of the totes and bags seen on display in the retail area of the facility Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

Ragged Mountain Equipment in Intervale is very much doing that, having ridden various economic cycles over the years.

But the outdoor apparel and backpack company is currently facing a real challenge. The company plans to file a reorganization plan it hopes will be accepted under Chapter 11 by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Concord.



Not liquidation, but reorganization — that’s the goal, and it’s important for customers to understand the difference, say co-founders/owners Rob Nadler and Cort and Cynthia Hansen.



The Chapter 11 plan is expected to be filed within the next 30 days. They have spent over $60,000 in legal fees getting the documents filed.



“We are two-thirds of the way there as we are almost ready to file the plan, and then we will be waiting for the the judge to approve the plan. We are also seeking an investor for capital,” said Nadler at his office at the company’s store and manufacturing plant, located a few miles north of the state’s Scenic Vista on Route 16 in Intervale.



The company was founded by Nadler in a space behind Cannell’s Country Store in 1985, before moving to the former Sketchley’s Bakery next to the now closed Scarecrow Restaurant in 1988.



In addition to the reorganization plan they are also seeking an investor of at least $150,000.



“We are doing all we can to reorganize and return to stability for our employees and customers. Our goal is to continue to create quality, made-in-U.S.A. innovative products and to support our employees and the community.

This latest hurdle came when a contract they had with L.L. Bean for fleece blankets was canceled due to supply disruption problems by supplier Polartec, which moved from Lawrence, Mass., to a facility in Cleveland, Tenn., in 2016.

At the height of the contract, Ragged supplied 40,000 blankets a year to L.L. Bean.

 Then, that all changed.



“We were only able to deliver half of our orders for 2017-18," Nadler said. "L.L. Bean was forced to cancel the entire program due to the lack of a dependable fabric supply," though he said they were understanding and helpful through the delivery problems.

He said he understood why Polartec downsized to Tennessee — the company was said to be using only 25 percent of its plant in Lawrence.

But, he said, it went from 250 to 300 union workers to a smaller, non-unionized workforce. 

That led to a reduction in quality of fabric as well as the quantity.



“We had to reject a lot of the fabric that came through. We were supposed to get 250 rolls a week — yet the most we got during this period was 60-100 rolls. It kept getting worse — Bean’s kept back-ordering to its customers, as much as 12 months, and that’s not good because they’re very much keyed into on-time delivery,” said Nadler.



Ragged was used to producing 900 blankets a day for L.L. Bean prior to Polartec’s company relocation — but with the reduced quantity, Ragged was lucky to produce 150 a day.

“All of our efficiencies went out the door,” Nadler said. “That meant that every blanket we shipped to Bean’s last year we just kept putting dollars on top of — it just cost us too much.

"

L.L. Bean canceled the Made in the U.S.A. fleece blanket program, representing half a million dollars in orders to Ragged, and canceled all Polartec orders. 

Now, Ragged is trying to adapt.

Cort Hansen said: “We have been working with L.L. Bean to look at alternative products from us, including using a different fabric supplier for blankets. We’re looking at other products as well."

The investment battle sounds like something out of TV’s “Shark Tank." All they need is a Mr. (or Mrs.) Wonderful to step up.



“We are very open to what an investor’s vision might be and how much they would like to get involved," Hansen said. "But at a minimum, we would need $150,000 in a loan.”



They said their company has worked with an investor over several months but the fears that investor only wants to buy them from the bank for pennies on the dollar.



“I don’t agree with that, because I don’t want to burn everyone (creditors). The bottom line is we need someone with an interest, we need a loan," Nadler said. "Otherwise, the only alternative is to shrink us back so far to where it’s just Cort and me and a few stitchers — and we don’t want that. But I mean, what else is there to do?



“We have a basic, solid business — the retail is healthy. The manufacturing and the retail work in tandem — when one is busy and the other is slow, we just shift people so it really works well to have it all on one site. Everyone is willing to pitch in and help everywhere,” Nadler said.



The firm is seeking help from possible regional agencies and business development groups, including with the state.



In the past, Ragged has received loans from the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council’s Revolving Loan Fund and also was given a Community Development Block Grant loan from the state through the economic council.



Nadler has served on the council’s board of directors and is a past Volunteer Board Member of the Year.



Contacted after the interview with Nadler and Hansen, MWV Economic Council Executive Director Jac Cuddy said he is hopeful an investor will step forward.



Co-owner of Ragged Mountain Equipment Rob Nadar explains some of the material used in their outdoor clothing and equipment manufactured in Intervale during the tour Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

“It's a shame, and I hope that someone comes along to invest. From what I understand, the retail store is doing well and they have orders from vendors. It's hard to see any of the limited manufacturing companies in the valley have rough times,” he said.



Chuck Henderson, former founder and president of the former Chuck Roast Equipment of Conway, and now a North Country liaison for U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), understands the challenges that Ragged is now facing.



“I have the greatest admiration for Rob and Cort for continuing to compete in the difficult worlds of both retail and manufacturing,” said Henderson.



Asked of the comparison to the now closed Chuck Roast Equipment, Nadler said his company is geared more toward technical gear and performance apparel whereas Henderson’s was aimed toward casual street wear.



“We’re very different: Chuck made wonderful products, but ours is more technical based. He was hurt by foreign competition while we held up a little more by having technical products — PowerStretch gear with different fibers with hoods for back country skiing, climbing and hiking. We use really high-performance stretch fabrics and higher thread counts," Nadler said, adding they make street wear, too.

"I think the fabrics at the lower end of the market, with the lower 200 thread counts, just got killed by the Walmarts and the foreign competition, which used Asian labor and Asian fleece," he said.

"I think that’s what hurt them (Chuck Roast) — they had beautiful products, and I still have plenty of them in my home closet!”

Nadler and Hansen met while both worked for Chuck Roast. Nadler had started making his own camping gear while living in Connecticut in the mid-1970s. Soon after, he began making chalk bags and swami belts for rock climbing and sold them at “the Gunks,” the popular climbing area in New York.



“Both of my parents were in the garment industry, and my mother let me use her sewing machine for my projects,” he said.



During a hiking trip to the White Mountains, he drew the artwork for the first Ragged Mountain logo on a napkin at Horsefeathers. On his next trip to the valley, he made my first wholesale chalk bag sale to International Mountain Equipment.



After moving to the valley in the summer of 1980, he made a sale of 200 chalk bags to EMS, then headquartered in Peterborough.



In 1982, he started private labeling chalk bags, gear slings and packs for Climb High in Burlington, Vt.

He worked at Sketchley's Bakery (now Ragged's Building), Limmer Boots and Chuck Roast as he expanded the products sold through Climb High.



In 1985, Nadler opened Ragged’s first retail store in the rear of Cannell's country store in Intervale.



“John Cannell made opening the store possible by renting a space for $125 a month. Cort Hansen, a friend I met at Chuck Roast, helped me refurbish the space with a truckload of rough sawn lumber from Tamworth. The following year, Cort and his wife Cindy became partners in Ragged,” said Nadler.



As sales increased, they needed more space, so in 1988, they moved to the former Sketchley’s Bakery where Nadler had worked for several years.

Before long, they bought the building and made several additions over the years.



Hansen, being an avid outdoorsman, hiker, climber and skier created Ragged’s ski department and developed its hard goods, including packs, climbing and footwear departments. He helped found the Mount Washington Valley Ski Touring and Snowshoe Foundation in 1988 and is president of the MWVSTA.



Over the past two decades, the company has designed hundreds of products including clothing, packs, luggage, climbing gear, hand wear, gaiters and much more. 

Both the retail and manufacturing businesses grew rapidly, Nadler and Hansen note. By the mid-’90s they were exporting to Japan through Climb High.

Their other private label accounts included Equine and children’s clothing catalogs, Orvis and Cabela’s. At the time they had many other sewing contractors in the Northeast working for Ragged to keep up with orders. But eventually the offshore production of sewn products first in Mexico and Central America then in Asia made it difficult to compete for their private label and wholesale clothing.



They opened a second store in Albany, N.Y., in 1996 to offset the drop in private label export business. The Albany store was open for five years. They closed that store, and have focused all of their efforts on their Intervale location.

From 2003 to 2008, Ragged manufactured a range of clothing and bags for export to Japan.

Ragged Mountain Equipment totes and bags are seen on display in the retail of the facility Monday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

They also designed and made custom clothing for the Navy Seals and other military customers. Some of the products included custom hanging seats for Humvee gunners, helmet covers, ventilation vests to wear under body armor, Powerstretch jackets and bibs for National Guard rescue units, custom web assemblies for the U.S. mission to Afghanistan and other special projects.

Today, Nadler and Hansen note that product development continues including Fire Resistant clothing for several customers, an expansion of its pet line including dog coats, packs and water bowls. The company has also added many new tool bags, totes, luggage and packs in new fabrics including their Heritage collection in waxed cotton.



Ragged’s motto in designing its array of ultra-light, wind-resistant products is durability, stretchability and breathability. 

That comes through in all of its products, whether it be windpants, windshirts, sweatshirts, jackets, vests, hats or even its line of quilt skirts and children’s clothing. (For a full appreciation of the company’s lineup, go to raggedmountain.com.)



As a small manufacturer, the company is also adept at producing special orders ranging from a set of 12 jackets for the Bartlett police to making radio chest packs for ski patrols and snowmakers and bunting to buffer the base of ski pole towers, as well as providing covers for snowmaking guns.



“The local ski areas like that, because we’re local — they like it because instead of having to pay to have those products shipped from California, they can get it from us,” said Nadler.



On a recent day, down the hall from Nadler’s upstairs office at Ragged, machinists Debbie Nadeau, Marcia Smith and Mary Keaten were busy stitching seams on garments. Out back, Brock Lessard was cutting fabric patterns for jackets, taking care to save excess fabric so that it could be turned into smaller products like hats and balaclavas.

Meanwhile, the retail shop was busy, with staff selling the store’s array of clothing and equipment.



“We are driving home the Made in the U.S.A. message, that the products you buy from us are made by local people — sort of like how people like to know where their food comes from has led to the farm-to-table surge,” said Hansen, who joined Nadler as a business partner in 1986.



The response to the tours has been positive. 

“One family came through last week and afterward bought $200 worth of stuff,” said Nadler.



The tours are offered Monday-Thursday, beginning at 10 a.m. They take about 20-30 minutes, starting in the back room and ending in the stitching area. Sometimes, they include a tour of an inventory room of past designs by designer Pam Helms.



“All that has passed is new again,” Nadler laughed, as he and Helms displayed past garment designs, some of which are being retrofitted and slated to return to Ragged’s lineup.



As a local company, Nadler and Hansen said Ragged has always believed strongly in supporting local causes, including serving as a sponsor of Arts Jubilee, supporting "Contribute To Place,” the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust, Tin Mountain Conservation Center and White Mountain Independents, a group of local merchants which Ragged helped found.




As for product innovation and development, being in the store fosters positive interactions with customers.



"The design input from customers and our employees is what makes it all possible. We have developed a great relationship with the fabric mills and trim suppliers to be able to make our quality made in USA products,” said Nadler.

Whether that will continue remains to be seen pending the outcome of their reorganization plan and whether an investor steps up in the stitch of time.



Hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. For more information, call (877) 772-4433 or (603) 356-3042 or go to raggedmountain.com.

BARTLETT — Helping Rob Nadler with the tour of Ragged Mountain Equipment last week was his and former wife Patty Lord’s son, Patrick Lord, 27,…

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