Wigwam Mills Inc. has reopened its factory as Wisconsin’s stay-at-home restrictions have been eased by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers. In addition, the Wigwam Board of Directors announced that leadership of the 115-year old brand has shifted to the fourth-generation siblings Chris Chesebro and Margaret Newhard.
Both Chesebro and Newhard have been working at Wigwam for over a decade, Chesebro overseeing operations and Newhard leading product development. With this transition, they will take joint control as General Managers of Operations and Administration, respectively, and lead the brand.
“Although it is an interesting time to step up, Chris and I are really excited to lead Wigwam and be working together to propel Wigwam forward for generations to come. Our family members preceding us have all been leaders in innovation and we will continue to do the same,” said Newhard, a 2015 SGB 40 Under 40 award honoree. “As we all move through these very challenging times created by the Coronavirus, Wigwam Mills is taking hard, but necessary, steps to safeguard the future of our iconic brand. We are working with each of our customers to create a very focused program in the short-term while reconfirming their needs that will promote growth in the future.”
By mandate of the state of Wisconsin, Wigwam temporarily paused its manufacturing on March 25th. As of April 2nd, Wigwam reinstated a focused team that reignited activity in operations and then a subsequent ramp up in production on May 19th. Wigwam said its priority is to get more of the Sheboygan based employees back to work safely, get its core sock styles back in production and continue to ship to its retail partners. Wigwam said it will successfully emerge from the COVID-19 temporary shutdown period by taking additional steps that will allow the brand to be more cost-efficient and competitive in the marketplace. Wigwam is also implementing new tools to enhance the communication of the brand’s values and tenets and maintain its commitment to assisting its loyal customers in finding their favorite socks at their favorite retailer.
Wigwam said, “COVID-19 has impacted all of us on a personal and professional level. We are all re-assessing what the world looks like moving forward. There has been a significant portion of the Wigwam retailer community, big and small, that were forced to temporarily close their doors as a result of the virus. Each retailer is now determining their new normal amidst the human and economic impacts of the pandemic.
“Wigwam has pivoted many times in our history. We navigated the depression, the great recession and shifted normal production to knit socks for the troops during World War II. The tenacious spirit of Wigwam and the Chesebro family have always gotten us through difficult times and we have no doubt we will emerge from this pandemic. While we had to lay off a significant portion of our workforce during the pandemic, we have been working diligently to establish safety protocols for the return of Wigwam employees in Sheboygan while planning our business on a variety of fronts for the future. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Wigwam was already in the process of developing strategic joint ventures with well-established partners in Alabama and North Carolina. COVID-19 has accelerated these plans to respond to an ever-changing environment. Despite not producing all goods in one location, our dedication to the American worker and USA Made product is an integral part of our DNA.”
Photo courtesy Wigwam Mills