Thomson company proud to make its apparel in America
Photos provided by All American Khakis
It’s no surprise that products, such as clothing, that are “Made in USA” are not easy to find these days.
But what some people might not know is that high-quality, handmade clothing is available with that label right in their own backyard in Thomson, Georgia.
Thomson is home to Chardan Industries and All American Khakis, a clothing and apparel company proudly manufacturing its products in its own hometown.
“One thing that makes us unique is that everything — from design, sewing and manufacturing to shipping and customer service — is all right here in this building,” said Walt Johnson, operations manager at Chardan Industries. “When you call us, you are talking to the people who are actually making your pants.”
Chardan Industries was started in the 1980s, when The Thompson Co., a large clothing and apparel manufacturer, closed its doors. Soon after, Walt’s father, Charles Johnson, a former employee with The Thompson Co., opened a similar company under a name that combined the names of Charles and his former business partner Dan Blitch.
Chardan Industries was born.
Walt and his older brother, Tommy Johnson, now work with their father, carrying on the family business by his side. It’s a source of pride for Walt, who followed in Tommy’s footsteps and joined the family business in 2000.
“When I was a little boy, this building we are working in, I saw it being built. I played in the bricks that were used to build the building,” Walt said. “I saw a dream come true, and I wanted to carry that on and also keep it going.”
The Johnson family is no stranger to the struggles of a small business, which must compete for consumers with major corporate conglomerates. They have seen their competition change during their time in operation. In the past, it was common to see local clothier or apparel manufacturing companies in rural towns, like Thomson, all over the country. However, with the introduction of international trade agreements in the mid-1990s, many of those companies closed, unable to compete with the lower costs of outsourcing the production of goods such as clothing.
But at Chardan Industries, “Made in USA” is more than just words on a label.
“We were tired of all of the apparel jobs leaving the country,” Walt said. “Something not many people know: 97% of apparel is made somewhere else, in another country; only 3% is made in the USA.”
So, in 2010, All American Khakis was born. The subsidiary to Chardan Industries specializes in custom, hand-sewn clothes, specifically pants.
It’s a fitting name for their family’s mission: To produce a quality product made in the United States and do their part to keep manufacturing jobs here at home, starting with their own business.
Customers receive products that are customized, designed and manufactured by hand by some 70 employees at Chardan Industries.
It is safe to say that Chardan and its mission have been successful so far.
“A lot of people went that route (outsourcing) because labor was cheaper and they could make more money, but we were out to prove that it can be done. You can survive, even thrive, and still make good money doing it what we consider the right way.”
The company’s dedication has paid off. Chardan Industries has seen a surge in the demand for American-made clothing, thanks in part to the internet.
“Our No. 1 search online is ‘Made in USA pants,’” Walt said. “We are filling a void I think that a lot of people are craving, and I think that mission is only growing.”
Today, Chardan Industries’ handmade products are shipped from Thomson to locations across the country, in the Northeast, Southeast and along the East Coast, from Texas all the way to Alaska.
“It’s a big source of pride,” Walt said about the patriotic mission.
The company is among the best employers in the county and is proud of its tight-knit workforce.
“Some people call us a miracle that we are still here; that may be true, but I think it’s some luck — we have been in the right place at the right time — and some of (dad’s) decision-making and making the right business choices that has kept us going,” Walt said.
The Johnsons’ goal is to provide high-quality, handmade pants and other clothing, made in the United States, for customers no matter where they are.
As the family-owned and -operated Chardan Industries continues to grow, its story is one that can proudly be labeled “Made in USA.”
Appears in the October 2021 issue of Augusta Magazine.