There’s no way we could do this without Dave! In addition to our knitting needles, Dave has his hand in magnetic power generators, water turbines, electric cars, cutting-edge shotgun shells, and spill-proof self-cooling coffee cup lids. In addition to all the long hours he puts in at the shop, he built himself a beautiful and sturdy house, and plants an excellent vegetable garden every spring.
When we bought the Denise company, we knew nothing about plastics manufacturing. The Linsteads had not only designed the kit but had built the molds, run the machines, assembled the parts, and sold the kits entirely by themselves. After we were the official owners of Denise, we took several deep breaths and, with those infamous words from “The Graduate” ringing in our ears, plunged into the yellow page listings for “plastics.”
After a series of calls, many of which were dead-ends, some of which lead from “a guy I know” to “a guy I know,” we found a man who ran a machine shop in Richmond, Virginia, an hour and a half east of us. He had the machines, the knowledge, and the time. We drove over to Richmond and walked into the shop, skirting hulking machines, mysterious pieces of metal, and box after box of strange materials. After an hour or so of talking with the guy, it came up that we lived near Charlottesville. He said, “You know, I could do this job for you, but I’ve got a buddy in Waynesboro who could do it just as well, and it’s a heck of a lot closer.” The next day, we set up an appointment with Dave Daughtry. He was a mystery to us then, but his shop was only fifteen minutes away. We walked in, started talking, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Dave grew up near Waynesboro, working on a neighbor’s farm. At some point he became interested in machinery, and went to college to learn the trade. He worked evenings at a small machine shop, and when he finished, he and a friend opened their own shop. “Things were different back then,” he says. “It was before most of the industry started being shipped off to China, and I had 20 or more people working under me. Now it’s hard to find anyone who knows how to build a mold. On top of the manufacturing, all the mold-making has gone to China, and since China’s been at it a while now, their technology is improving and they can charge more, so it’s starting to shift to India now. All my buddies who used to be in the mold-making business are retiring, and there’s no one left to replace them. They don’t even teach it at tech schools anymore. The only way to learn it is from the few folks still doing it.”
Dave is one of those few folks. We’re proud to say that every part of the Denise kit is made in the U.S.A., and almost all of it is made here in Virginia. The case is made in Minnesota, as there are no more companies left anywhere near us who do that type of work. We feel that though it may be cheaper in the short run to attempt to do business with China or India, supporting our local economies will pay off for us all in the long run.
When Dave first started making Denise kits for us, he wasn’t sure how a business that only sold knitting needles would manage to survive. One weekend, he and his wife were spending a little free time at a lake town a few hours away, he spotted a small local yarn shop and wandered in. “The shop was filled with women,” he told us in a somewhat awed voice that next Monday, “and they were all…knitting!” He has continued to marvel at the number of us knitters that there are in the world. We are truly fortunate to have someone like Dave as our friend and as our manufacturer, and this country is very lucky that there are still a few men like Dave left. Thanks Dave!