About a year after beginning my work with what is now Alabama Chanin, I was managing the company operations in Alabama with one employee, Abbie (after whom our “Abbie’s Flower” stencil is named).
We were still working in the little three bedroom brick ranch house at Lovelace Crossroads. I was actually living in one side of the house and running the design and production out of the other side of the house. And when I say running, I really mean undertaking the whole production. I spent my days sorting and washing t-shirts, cutting garments for orders, stenciling them, packing them for sewing and sending them out to our sewers – all of this with a head-set permanently in place for the constantly ringing phone. At that moment, I could barely keep up with all of the artisans that wanted to sew, communicate with customers and still manage the production deliveries.
April, one of our very first sewers (and soon to be highlighted here), kept saying to me that she knew this man named Steven who would be perfect to help me. For whatever reason, it seems that I never found time to get him into the office. He finally arrived one gray December day wearing a suit and his University of North Alabama football ring. I was in my Alabama t-shirt, skirt and a work belt made from a pair of old jeans. He seemed like a gift from heaven and I asked him if he wanted to “go home, change clothes and come back to work.” I remember him smiling and answering that maybe he could “start tomorrow?” He reminded me recently that he was our “1st Male Employee.”
(The photos above are from an older catalog where Steven was also our model.)
Almost a decade later, Steven has attended to just about every task necessary to the running of Alabama Chanin, save for designing the collection and creating patterns (but who knows what the future holds). Approximately 97% of all in-house calls will end up transferred to his office or placed on hold while someone asks him a question. Today, Steven works primarily as our production manager, artisan coordinator, and in-house accountant – although he is still seen in the painting room, packing boxes, and occasionally sweeping the floor. He got his accounting degree (with almost perfect grades) from the local university during our transition from Project Alabama to Alabama Chanin and has never looked back.
A family man with a wife and two sons aged 15 and 4, Steven began working in the textile industry in 1995, just a year before marrying his college sweetheart. Although he’s usually one of the first to arrive at our studio, he occasionally slips out a little early to attend his son’s high school golf tournaments or sporting events with his family (we’re certain his oldest is headed for stardom and that his younger son will follow suit). Steven was a high-school football player, worked with his college team, and is still enamored with the game. He is rarely spotted without a University of Alabama baseball cap. In fact, we wouldn’t find a single photo of Steven that didn’t picture him sporting one of these hats. We know that he has at least two versions: one for every day and one for special occasions. I recommend a little football-themed small talk for those seeking his good side.
Our artisans love him, the people who come to our weekend workshops adore him, and our customers value his problem-solving skills. Steven might be the hardest working person I know: production manager, accountant, family man, and father. In fact, for a short time each summer, Steven and his son run a lawn maintenance business so that his son can also learn the value of a good day’s work. An invaluable asset to Alabama Chanin and to all that know him: Steven Smith – a part of the heart and soul of Alabama Chanin.