IN THE SPOTLIGHT
WHERE: 4158 Robinson St.
HOURS: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sunday (only for sale) 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
CALL: (770) 786-4887, outlet store is (770) 786-1441
Customers may love the deep discounted prices on fabric at OHCO's outlet store, but they are unaware of the scope of its operations.
After earning his MBA in corporate finance, owner George Hart Jr. teamed with Benny Owen, a friend from graduate school, in a part-time business cleaning and reselling steel containers for storing chemicals.
Owen-Hart Company became OHCO after Owen accepted a buyout from Hart. While getting the young company on its feet, Hart went to work as the distribution manager for Thiokal Chemical in south Georgia. He later moved to Mobile Chemical in Covington, now known as Pactiv.
"One of the companies we were buying the containers from asked us if we bought other waste products," Hart said. "My father was in the textile business, so I was already familiar with textile waste. One thing led to another, and we started buying more textile waste. I left Mobile after a year to get into this full-time."
"We started exporting a few years later because that was where the ultimate uses of all these products are," he added.
OHCO now primarily purchases leftover, defected and overrun fabric from textile mills and garment factories. They arrive at the plant, where they are separated and categorized by material. The sifted materials are loaded into freight containers and then sold wholesale. A typical shipment is 45,000 to 50,000 pounds.
The business exports the fabrics all over the world. Headquartered in Covington, the company currently owns three facilities in Chile, making the country its largest customer.
"Every place we ship can be classified as third-world countries," said Hart. "They can take stuff that you can't really use to make something with modern manufacturing methods, but you can do it by hand."
OHCO also offers discounted prices on fabric and textiles to the general public. The wide selection of fabrics includes home decorative fabrics and designer rugs.
Twice a year, OHCO opens up a section of the warehouse to fill with products to be sold at $1.50 a pound. Hart said they have a mailing list of more than 25,000 customers, some of whom travel from as far as New York for the sale.
OHCO is holding its clearance sale this week. The business plans to stay open until Sunday to accommodate customers.
"These are high-quality rugs and but they're at closeout prices," said Hart. "What are here are items with designs that manufacturing companies have stopped making, so we buy it cheap and sell it cheap. These items may have some defects, but at these prices, you can't beat it."
The company is celebrating its 40th year in Covington. While there are no special plans for the occasion, Hart is grateful for the longevity of the business.
"To still be here with the way the economy is, it's something," he said.