Vendor Spotlight: REED Manufacturing

Posted on: August 29th, 2022 by Valerie Wetlaufer | No Comments

In the industrial laundry industry, there are many independent, family-owned businesses, and CITY always enjoys partnering with such companies, many of whom come to feel like family themselves. One of our long-time vendors for commercial workwear is REED Manufacturing. REED has been a supplier for denims, cottons, and food service items among others for just over a decade.


As Account Executive John Harlin of REED Manufacturing says, “It feels like I’m coming to visit family when I visit CITY. I walk in and see a smile on everyone’s face, and all the people I meet are so knowledgeable about what you do. The success story that is CITY, is because of the people.”

John Harlin of REED Manufacturing and Dakota Gipper, Assistant Controller of CITY

REED’s success is in their team members as well. As an employee-owned company, co-workers aren’t just employees, but stockholders.


Originally, the company was called Reed Brothers, Inc. It was founded by three brothers in 1919, and operated from a one-story warehouse that began with 40 employees and 24 machines. Four years later, Reed brothers had grown to 212 employees and 169 machines. The products at that time included smocks, aprons, work shirts, and work dresses. It was in 1959, when ownership of the company passed to the second generation that the company name was changed to Reed Manufacturing Company. In 1970, a new modern facility was built in Tupelo.


The passing of Bill Reed in 1994 and his brother Jack Reed Sr. in 2016 led to the 3rd generation taking the helm. Ed Nelson, Bill Reed’s son-in-law, became the third CEO in 1994, and when he retired in 2020, Zeb Atkinson took over. Zeb was brought on to Reed in 2017 as part of the company’s succession planning.


Today, the business is still based in Tupelo, Mississippi, with multiple factories in the other countries. They focus on providing quality work garments built for comfort and safety for the wearer and honest value for commercial laundries.


REED is proud of the fact that their Dominican Republic manufacturing plant is certified by WRAP—the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production. It’s a certification that guarantees a company’s products have been manufactured in factories that treats its employees and the environment right. As John says, “The WRAP certification is very important to use because we treat our people great. We’ve got so many longtime employees at REED.”


Making garments is, according to John, “a highly skilled labor-intensive thing. You can’t totally automate it,” which makes the quality of factories even more important.


One of the many reasons CITY likes partnering with REED is their unique Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) program says CITY’s Head of Purchasing Dakota Gipper. VMI works as a consignment program and allows CITY to be ahead of time instead of “just in time” when it comes to getting items to our clients faster. This is especially valuable these days, with global supply chain issues still affecting many industries.


“Our relationship with REED is a great one. They are easy to work with and truly understand what it means to provide a quality product to the laundering industry,” Dakota said.


Another REED innovation is the flexible-waist pants that allow garments to remain in service longer, by eliminating the need for a size change for small weight fluctuations, which is especially useful for costlier garments like flame-resistant pants. According to John, one tagline used to be “They fit before lunch and after lunch.”

REED’s responsiveness, lead times, and small minimums make them the very best in the industry at producing special garments for their customers. A substantial portion of their business involves working closely with their customers to develop custom garments, and then producing them to meet their exact specifications. Many of these garments are made as private label, and Reed can handle pretty much any customization customers require at very low minimums.


“We can do almost anything the customer is looking for to give them an advantage in the marketplace, and to make their customers happy. For example, if a customer wanted a specific reflective tape pattern, we could do that. We can customize pocket placement, we can put a private label in the garment, add mic tabs, pen slots, cuffs to the sleeve, etc.   We can customize colors and create two-tone garments,” says President Zeb Atkinson.


The ability to provide our customers with exactly the garments they need is an important part of being the region’s most responsive launderer for CITY.


Like CITY, REED also focuses on cultivating long-term relationships with the people and customers they work with. “We can’t function if we can’t get along,” says John.


For more information on REED, head over to this interview CITY President Colin Wetlaufer conducted with John Harlin.


Thank you REED for all that you have done and continue to do for CITY!


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