Indiana Company Switches From RV Parts To Purses

Decorator Industries, which made window coverings and bedding for recreational vehicles, has switched to purses and shopping bags now that the RV market has soured.

GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) -- A northern Indiana company that made window coverings and bedding for recreational vehicles has switched to purses and shopping bags now that the market for RVs has soured in the economic downturn.

Decorator Industries hopes to recall several dozen laid-off workers as it begins making the new products at its factory in Goshen, an area that has been battered by layoffs in the recreational vehicle industry.

The area's 18 percent unemployment rate in February is up 12.5 percentage points from a year ago.

"We have all this fabric that isn't moving, and we have sewing and cutting machines. We wondered, what can we sew? What can we do?" sales manager Donna Gould told the South Bend Tribune.

"We had to come up with something to keep our company going," she said. "Some of our RV customers work one week and are down two. It's very sporadic. Others are not back yet from Christmas break."

Gould got the idea from a tote that was sent to her by a fabric supplier. After sharing the idea with the staff, employees brought various bags and purses from home and started playing with various designs at the plant in the city about 20 miles southeast of South Bend.

They designed and made prototypes of 10 products, including shopping, tote, and carpet bags as well as purses. The company then offered the bags to local stores.

"We're one local company helping another local company and the economy," said Pam Mitchell, who plans to stock the bags at her Gingerbread Cottage stores in Mishawaka and Elkhart. "They're bringing people back to work to make these bags. How great is that?"

Decorator Industries merged with Elkhart sister company Specialty Window Coverings to trim costs in the fall, and by the end of the year the combined company -- once employing around 200 -- was down to 35 workers.

With dozens of bags ranging in price from $30 to $35 on order, Decorator Industries has already called back a few laid-off employees to help fill orders.

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