Kentucky-Made Threads

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Dan Dickson

Matthew Wilson (left) started George Bear Wear. Mark and Virginia Zoller are minority owners of the business. Here the three show off some of the company’s jackets. PHOTO BY EMILY MOSELEY

Chevy Chase residents create new line of active wear

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are 146,000 apparel manufacturing employees in the U.S. Yes, those folks producing “Made in the USA” garments of all kinds. In some places, it’s trendy to wear clothing with such a patriotic label.

Now, a couple of 20-something Chevy Chase residents are helping to keep Kentucky clothing quite busy.

The clothing brand is called George Bear. It just hit the marketplace last fall with a much bigger rollout planned for 2013.

“They are technical outer wear (for technically demanding sports or other outdoor activities).We make 12 types of men’s and women’s jackets,” explained founder Matthew Wilson, 27. The brand name, George Bear, comes from the names of Wilson’s two dogs.

As for the Made in the USA claim: “We manufacture completely 100 percent in the United States. We’re the only brand (technical outdoor wear) that can say that,” Wilson stressed. “We purchase our fabric from Polar Tech, the same company that The North Face and Patagonia buy from. Our products are just the same, but we’re the only outdoor brand manufactured in the U.S.”

Wilson adds that the logos, zippers and ancillary items on the clothing are also American-made.

Until recently, the clothing was assembled at Phar Shar Manufacturing in Leitchfield, Ky., about 75 miles southwest of Louisville. But now the line of George Bear Wear is assembled at SEKRI (South Eastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries), a company which has an emphasis on employing disabled workers and wounded veterans.

Wilson says he and his friends have always enjoyed hiking and kayaking, which spurred his interest in starting his own outer wear company, his first business venture. Wilson’s step-father, Jim Hampton Plemmons, owner of Old Frankfort Stud in Woodford County, was instrumental in helping Wilson develop his business plan and launch George Bear.

During his late high school and early University of Kentucky years, Wilson was a ski technician at the former Phillip Gall’s Outdoor and Ski Store, now Benchmark Outdoor Outfitters, in Lexington. “We’re familiar with the industry and products, not just because we like them, but because we use them,” he said.

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