Staff at Whanganui's Cavalier Bremworth yarn-making plant are celebrating their parent company's 50th anniversary today.
The carpet manufacturing company was established in Auckland by mates Tony Timpson and Grant Biel and in 1975 Cavalier Carpets embarked on a greenfield project to establish a new spinning plant in the North Island.
They settled on Whanganui and established Castlecliff Spinners as a joint venture with Alliance. Eventually, Cavalier Carpets wholly owned the Whanganui operation, based in Leamington St.
Plant manager Andrew Karl said the Whanganui site now employs 54 staff and operates three shifts, five days a week, with some Saturday work when they are busy.
Many of the staff are long-servers, with one notching up more than 40 years and others not far behind.
Karl himself started out in the carpet industry in Auckland after leaving school, and moved to Whanganui in 1988. He says people who get involved in the industry tend to stay.
"The site has been here since 1975 and for the most part we continue to do what we have done since then, making woollen yarn," he said.
"But we have redefined ourselves as a felted yarn maker, producing chunky, luxurious yarn aimed at the high-end residential broadloom market."
Cavalier is one of only a few companies worldwide that makes felted wool carpets.
"There's a noticeable swing back to wool with the anti-plastic sentiment out there," Karl said.
"Wool will be the future for us, especially in the higher end market."
Today's 50th anniversary celebrations in Whanganui will involve a function and anniversary cake for the dayshift staff, plus more than 20 former employees and guests including Cavalier Bremworth's national sales manager Dean Chandler. The nightshift team will have its own celebration, with another anniversary cake.