In 1961, the first yard of Sunbrella fabric was woven in a Glen Raven factory in Burlington, N.C. This week, that same factory celebrated its grand opening as Sunbrella’s new world headquarters.
Glen Raven’s Chairman Allen Gant Jr. said a knack for innovation and change has kept Glen Raven, a company the Gant family started in 1880, and Sunbrella successful over the years. With this new headquarters, the company aims to honor that history through a remodel that both preserves the past and reminds people of the future.
“You’re in an environment where the opportunity for sharing and innovation was allowed to maximize. That’s what this is really all about,” said Gant. “Glen Raven has spent its entire history finding niches in consumer needs and solving industrial problems. We’ve been able to do that and build a pretty strong business. When you’ve been in business for 139 years, you understand the factor of change.”
The headquarters’ facility had previously been used to house spinning for the company up until 2013, and construction on the space, based on designs from New York-based architectural firm Tsao and McKown, began in 2014. Local architecture firm Plageman Architecture and Samet Corporation, a locally based construction company, helped facilitate the completion of Tsao and McKown’s designs.
The completed space now includes numerous workspaces, collaborative areas, large conference rooms and auditoriums, showroom spaces and much more. On the front of the building, a large glass wall has been added to connect the building visually to the rest of Glen Raven’s corporate campus. On the bottom floor, a coffee shop and indoor green space has been added. Sunbrella’s fabrics can be found incorporated throughout the building on the cushions and pillows of upholstered chairs in common seating areas, on the chairs in the coffee shop’s seating area and in the form of drapes found throughout the office.
While the space has been highly modernized as a part of its transformation into the new headquarters, Glen Raven was also careful to preserve the building’s historic architecture, keeping its 118-year-old pinewood floor planks, embedded throughout with metal travelers dating back to the early years of production, and its original exposed structural beams and brickwork.
“We could have gone out and just built a new building, and quite frankly it would have been less expensive and not taken near the time this renovation has,” said Glen Raven CEO Lieb Oehmig. “But we don’t think it would have brought near the authenticity to the business and we wanted to honor our rich heritage while inspiring people to think about the future.”
Sunbrella’s new facility opening is a part of a greater growth project for Glen Raven. Currently, a welcome center for the entire Glen Raven campus adjacent to the Sunbrella headquarters is set to be complete this summer and, according to Gant, more is on the way.
“Our main goal is to tie all the campuses together, but right now we are still working on how we’re going to join the old part of the campus and the new part of the campus together. We’ve also built in a lot of expansion opportunities into this new building. Currently we have about 120 associates here, but it could easily house twice that if not more in the future.”