In Hagerstown, a 'Ribbon Heaven'
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Judy Toland and her friends have a secret source for ribbons, and often before holidays, they head north on Interstate 270 toward Hagerstown to stock up.
Sixty-five miles north of Washington churns one of the nation's biggest ribbon factories. The operation came to Hagerstown in 1922, begun by a family with experience in ribbonmaking dating to 19th-century France. Eight years ago, the Berwick Offray Ribbon Outlet Store opened next to the factory, where bins and boxes overflow with discontinued styles, overstocks and seconds: ice blue with brown polka dots, moss green sheers printed with Christmas lights, violet double-faced satins, grosgrains, taffetas and woven plaids, some for as little as 25 cents a yard or 10 cents a roll.
"This is ribbon heaven," says Toland, who lives in Northwest. "They practically give it away."
The ribbon made in this factory -- which turns out 10 million yards of ribbon a week -- has hung around the necks of Olympic medalists, been bestowed on popes, decked the halls of the White House and wrapped thousands of boxes of Godiva chocolates and Williams-Sonoma cookware. The firm has made miles of pink ribbon for breast cancer causes and blue ribbons for horse shows. "We sell ribbons to Wal-Mart, Jo-Ann's, Michaels," says Julie Pajic, vice president of marketing. "It's used by crafters and thousands of florists."
The outlet store draws brides, scrapbookers, cheerleaders, high schoolers decorating for proms and preteens making striped grosgrain belts and hair bows. One of the most popular features is the stuff-a-bag: for $1.09 you get a quart-size zip-top bag to fill with loose ribbon (end pieces of unrolled merchandise) tossed in giant boxes for rummaging.
The Berwick Offray Ribbon Outlet Store, 857 Willow Cir., Hagerstown. Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; 301-745-4714. To get on the list for sales and specials, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The outlet is about six miles from the Antietam battlefield, and the Hagerstown Prime Outlets are just around the corner. Locals and outlet regulars swear by the crab cakes at Nicholas' restaurant in the Four Points by Sheraton Hagerstown, 1910 Dual Hwy.; 301-790-3010.