Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 34

NECPA

A C E N T U RY O F S U C C E S S

Wm. J. Mills & Co.
What we do is
manage change.
And sometimes
change is what
we create and
sometimes change
is thrust upon us,
as in the current
coronavirus situation.
JAMIE MILLS,
WM. J. MILLS & CO.

TOP: Wm. J. Mills & Co., circa 1880.
BOTTOM: Robert L. Mills, son of Wm.
J. Mills' founder, who joined the family
business after serving in WWI.

W

hen Scottish immigrant William
J. Mills moved to Greenport,
N.Y., in 1880 pursuing steady work as a
sailmaker, he couldn't have known he was
charting the course of his family's life for
generations to come. But 140 years later,
his descendants are still operating the
company he founded that year.
Today, the fifth generation is at the helm:
Jamie and Bob Mills are president and
vice president, respectively. And in 2017,
Bob's son Rob came on board, marking the
entrance of the sixth generation.
Companies don't survive that long by
standing in place. As Jamie explains, the
company's longevity has hinged on being
adaptable: "I've always subscribed to the
philosophy that what we do is manage
change. And sometimes change is what we
create and sometimes change is thrust upon
us, as in the current coronavirus situation."
An example of the company's ability
to evolve was evident when its longtime
partnership, from 1959 to 1996, with the
Boston Whaler Co. ended. "When I first
took over the company, we were shipping
trailer truckloads up to the factory in
Rockland, Mass. But then Boston Whaler
was sold and we lost that contract," Jamie
says. Fortunately, many dealers stuck with
Wm. J. Mills. "We adapted when we lost
that contract to providing service to the
dealers. A lot of them we are still doing
business with from around the world."
When asked what has helped the
company survive, Bob Mills gives a oneword answer: "Diversity. Doing many
different things. When one aspect of the
business is down, we can generally keep
going on another aspect," he says. Gone
are the days of just making sails; cushions,
bags, boat riggings and marine canvas, and
custom and retractable awnings are all in
its product line today.
The company's location on Long Island
also helps it weather some economic woes:

From left to right: Robert L. Mills II (Bob), William J. Mills III
(Jamie), William J. Mills II (Bill). Photos: Wm. J. Mills & Co.

YEAR FOUNDED: 1880
ORIGINAL PRODUCTS: Sails
CURRENT PRODUCTS: Sails, awnings,
and other canvas products for
homes and businesses; custom
marine canvas products
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 26

"We're in a fairly affluent area, so when
recessions hit, we have certain clientele who
it doesn't really affect too much," says Bob.
When facing tough times, he says
it's important to diversify. "Find some
other things to do," he suggests. "It's just
taking whatever business you can get and
getting it done. Service is going to be the
key. That's what we've always based our
business on-providing good service and
trying to deliver when we say we're going
to deliver."
Though the company was anxious to
jump back into its busy spring season, Jamie
says about the pandemic, "From a societal
point of view, it's our responsibility to keep
people home. It's the right thing to do."

34 REVIEW JULY 2020

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6/19/20 11:16 AM



Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020

Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - Cover1
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - Cover2
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 1
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 2
Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - 3
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Specialty Fabrics Review July 2020 - Cover3
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