A lot of Carolinas textile families got slammed by the transition to foreign manufacturing, their businesses disappearing. Gaston County’s Pharr family survived by diversifying and thinking ahead, a trait seen in this week’s announcement to rebrand its holding company as Pharr, instead of Pharr Yarns.
“It’s just a way of marketing ourselves to others, while it’s just as important in how we market to our employees and future employees,” says CEO Bill Carstarphen. Making clear that the company is a diverse, strong business is important to continue a business that his grandfather, W.J. “Bll” Pharr, started with Robert and Daniel Stowe in 1939. The trio built one of the world’s biggest carpet yarn makers, basing the business in McAdenville, a Gaston County town 10 miles west of downtown Charlotte and famous for its annual Christmas light show.
The company now has five business units, including two makers of carpet and high-performance yarns. It also operates a carpet manufacturing business based in Dalton, Ga. called Phenix Flooring. The combined businesses employ more than 1,500 people.
Outside of textiles it operates a hotel business that typically owns six to eight properties in partnerships with local developers. An example is a Rock Hill, S.C. hotel co-owned with U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman’s business. Strand Hospitality Services also manages 25 or 30 inns for other owners. Most of its own hotels are Hampton Inns or Marriott brands.
Pharr is owned by the Carstarphen family and has never taken private equity. Bill’s brother, Martin Carstarphen, works with the family’s Belmont Land and Investment business, while his son, William, is a supervisor at Pharr Fibers & Yarns. His cousin, John Pharr, is CEO of Strand.
With annual sales topping $300 million, Pharr ranked as the state’s 24th largest private company last year, according to the list produced by Grant Thornton and published by Business North Carolina.
A new logo and corporate structure reflect an effort to stay current, Carstarphen notes. “Marketing has become very critical to our company, more important than it has ever been.”