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Creating fabric innovations

Industry News | August 1, 2012 | By:

Leavitt and Parris brings fabric innovations to New England and beyond.

Formed in 1919 with the merger of a sail and awning manufacturer, Leavitt and Parris, Portland, Maine, has stayed true to its mission to find new ways to bring fabric innovations
to its clients.

Expand, expand, expand

In the 1930s and 40s the company added to its inventory and services rental tents, cots and
medical furniture for housing and hospital shortages. In the 50s and 60s it added party rental to
the mix. In the 70s and 80s it began to take on marine and military projects. And currently it is
expanding to manufacture custom fabric structures, upholstered furniture and event furnishings.

“About two years ago I was walking the oceanside property of a tent customer preparing for a
large event,” says John Hutchins IV, vice president of Leavitt and Parris. “The homeowner had a
large boat on the water—with a bimini, canvas and cushions; beautiful patio furniture with
upholstered cushions; a retractable fabric awning on the deck; and upholstered products on the
interior of the home. So there’s all this fabric in people’s lives and we’re already creating some
of it. I thought, why can’t we create more?”

Standard and custom hybrids

The company uses its manufacturing capabilities to create custom hybrid products for its
customers, taking standard tent rental product and redesigning, reengineering and fabricating it for
a new purpose. Recently the company did a covered walkway for the stairs of a four-level parking
garage. Leavitt and Parris used extruded kedered rafters from its structure supplier, and custom
built adaptable steel legs, hardware and brackets. “If a stock rental product doesn’t fill our
client’s needs, we take a standard item from one of our suppliers and turn it into something new,”
says Hutchins.

A new twist on furnishings

Expanding to the online market is the next innovation for Leavitt and Parris. The company has
several upholstered furniture products in research and development that it plans to launch at the
end of the year. “We’re taking a new twist on event furnishings,” Hutchins says. “We’re developing
furniture that can work as traditional upholstered furniture for homes and businesses and as event
furniture, using textures and designs that you’d generally not find in the event industry. A key
feature of this endeavor is that the products will be 100-percent made in Maine.”

Leavitt and Parris has responded to the faltering economy by diversifying and creating innovative
products. “We’re evolving the company into what you might call a fabric lifestyle brand.”

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