By JONATHAN BISSONNETTE
EAST PROVIDENCE – After 43 years in business, operating one of the few remaining vestiges of the Blackstone Valley’s heyday as a textile powerhouse, Donald Scarlata decided it was time for a change at Colonial Mills.
The chairman and chief executive officer of the Rumford-based manufacturer of area rugs, storage baskets, and custom woven products opened Colonial Mills with his brother Paul in 1977. He started with just five employees, but the business soon grew and now employs about 90 people in its retail and manufacturing space at 77 Pawtucket Ave.
So when he knew it was time to look toward the next four decades of Colonial Mills’ future – and beyond – Donald Scarlata needed to look no further than to the man who has been with Colonial Mills for the past 17 years, who started as a maintenance tech but worked his way up the corporate ladder, holding various titles such as national accounts sales manager and vice president of sales before being named executive vice president in 2017.
His son, Gregg Scarlata.
“With over 17 years of experience, Gregg brings a fresh perspective, energy, and passion to the business,” Donald Scarlata said. “He is well respected in the industry and by all employees. As the second generation of presidents he is well prepared to lead the company into the future. I am proud to call him my son.”
To be appointed the new president and chief operating officer, and to take the lead of the business that his father and uncle started from the ground up 43 years ago, is extremely meaningful, Gregg Scarlata said last week.
“It obviously has a lot of additional meaning for me personally in terms of wanting this business to continue to succeed, and the personal thing of seeing my father succeed,” he said. “That’s motivating for me to keep things going and try to do it a little better if I can. There’s definitely a personal component of it and drive for the whole father-son thing.”
But stepping into the shoes his father filled has him personally filled with a level of “excitement,” Gregg said.
“It’s something I’ve been working towards, it’s definitely excitement. I’m not nervous at all,” he said. “Really as we’ve evolved into this role, it’s kind of a title change. I’ve really been groomed along the way to understand what my responsibilities are, it’s just excitement for my opportunity to take this opportunity for the second generation.”
Gregg Scarlata said his goals for the future of the business are centered on Colonial Mills’ employees, saying he’s known many of them since he was just a kid.
“I have a real strong tie to them, it’s like a really big family … So many employees work here, they’re so dedicated, working 20 years, if not longer,” he said. “I’ve known a lot of people since I was a kid, they’re dedicated, the most unbelievable people. Without them the business is nothing. They’re my focus.”
Colonial Mills operated out of a 66,000 square-foot space on Mineral Spring Avenue in Pawtucket until 2019, when it closed its doors at the warehouse and relocated three miles down the road to a new, larger space in the Rumford section of East Providence. The new home for Colonial Mills at 77 Pawtucket Ave. is 75,000 square feet – an increase of about 9,000 square feet over its former location.
Gregg Scarlata said the new location feels like home, saying the relocation last year was “quite an undertaking, but it’s really great to be settled in, we love our new space. It was a very rewarding experience in the end. Definitely stressful, but we have some unbelievable employees that really made it happen, everything everyone did was supportive in making it happen, it was an unbelievable effort.”
“It feels like we put our stamp on it, we’re finally settled in. It’s the new normal. It took a little getting used to not going to 560 Mineral Spring Ave. … It’s just a real comfortable space to be in,” he added.
The products created at Colonial Mills range from traditional oval-shaped braided area rugs to modern and chic looks in square or rectangular shapes or sizes that are custom fit. They also offer storage baskets and hampers that come in solid or multi-color options.
Every piece from Colonial is made to order and sewn one at a time with products made in the United States. They serve thousands of customers around the country, from online purchases to retailers such as Wayfair and Overstock.
Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette