Cedar Falls Manufacturing Co. went up for auction in February 1916.
On the eighteenth of March 1916, three Asheboro businessmen, D.B. McCrary, T.H. Redding and W.J. Armfield, Jr., signed the charter for a new corporation located in Cedar Falls, North Carolina. They had just purchased the near bankrupt property which was called the Cedar Falls Manufacturing Company, and they adopted the name of Sapona Cotton Mills, Inc., after an Indian tribe that had dwelled on the shores of the Deep River many years ago.
Cotton manufacturing at Cedar Falls has had a long history. The original company was established by an Act of the North Carolina General Assembly on the first day of February 1829, and was the first mill in Randolph County and one of the pioneer cotton mills in the south. Among the charter members of the new enterprise was Jonathan Worth, who later became Governor of North Carolina, and Jesse Walker, the great grandfather of T. Henry Redding and the great, great grandfather of C.W. McCrary, Jr., Steele Redding, and Mrs. John O Toledano.
The original plant was built on the north side of the river near the bridge, and the machinery was shipped by rail to Greensboro and hauled by horse-drawn wagons to Cedar Falls. Manufacturing did not begin until 1836.
The lower mill, which is now Sapona and was the one-story part to the present plant, was not built until 1895-96. It was a cotton weaving plant and equipped with 100 looms.
During the early years the only power available was waterpower from the river diverted into a raceway leading under the plant to a huge water wheel. The motion of the wheel was conveyed to the plant by a system of ropes and pulleys which were connected to looms by leather belts.
There followed some prosperous years, and then after a period of loss during the depression the management closed the upper plant in 1939 and retained the lower mill which was equipped with 100 looms.
Since the weaving business soon became unprofitable, it was decided to sell the looms and convert to a silk-throwing operation. Acme and McCrary Hosiery Mills in Asheboro were using large quantities of silk, giving Sapona a ready market for the new product. The services of W.A. Underwood were secured as general manager.
Raw silk was brought to America from Japan, with "books" of skeins being packed into bales of straw matting by importers with such exotic names as Matsui, Katakura, Gunze, Gerli. The throwing of silk involved a soaking process, the winding of skeins to bobbins, the combining of two or more threads into a single strand, the addition of twist and the cone winding operation.
From 1936 until 1941, the use of silk by Acme and McCrary hosiery increased at a rapid rate, and the facilities were expanded to meet the growing need. Then, in August of 1941, as World War II engulfed more and more nations, disaster struck the hosiery industry when an embargo was placed on the importation of Japanese silk. Thus, the hosiery manufacturers were deprived of their basic raw material.
In the meantime, the DuPont Company had developed a new synthetic fiber, which was given the generic name of NYLON. In 1938, McCrary Hosiery was named one of the plants first selected by DuPont to assist in the development of nylon, and the knitting and marketing of stockings made from the wonder fiber were swinging into high gear when it too was restricted to military usage exclusively.
On June 8, 1942, the Sapona Cotton Mills name was changed to Sapona Manufacturing Company, Inc. The upper mill had been sold to Sellers Manufacturing in 1939 and was reorganized as an affiliate under the name Jordan Spinning Company. At the onset of war, Sapona had not completed installation of specialized equipment, which, at the time, was essential for the processing of nylon for hosiery knitting.
The armed forces were finding nylon fabric particularly suitable for use in parachutes, poncho cloth, glider tow rope and many other war essential. Sapona management successfully obtained contracts to process yarns for these uses and was able to procure the needed equipment. Through the war years the company shipped yarn to a number of military contractors.
Soon after the end of hostilities, both Acme and McCrary were among the first mills selected by DuPont to use nylon; and Sapona, thanks to the technical knowledge it had gained during the war was able to get off to a flying start in its processing. New equipment had been purchased and plans drawn for a large addition to the mill. This foresight was soon justified since the unique heat-setting properties of nylon caused no-seam stockings to become popular and to replace gradually the full-fashioned product.
The period of rapid change at Sapona was far from over. Upon the death of his father in 1946, J. Frank McCrary became president of the company, and soon thereafter the chemical wizards who discovered nylon continued to change and enhance the nature of the fiber, until a yarn had evolved which could be knit at the hosiery mill with no prior processing at the throwing plant.
This development posed a serious threat to its operation because the company was primarily involved in producing thrown yarn for Acme-McCrary and was owned by these companies. Now, ladies' hosiery mills did not need thrown yarn.
About 1950 a nylon thread had been devised which was capable of stretching to twice its original length, and in 1954 a new machine became available which combined several steps into the "false-twist" method of turning out a yarn which would stretch.
Since Acme-McCrary would not use most of Sapona's output, it was decided other customers would be contacted. A sales plan was devised and yarn sold to other mills for socks and tights.
New plant additions have been built on several occasions, and the latest machinery designed to produce mid-denier nylon purchased as requirements for this yarn increased. The company has shown its ability to make technological improvements and has frequently scrapped unproductive machine and replaced it with the most modern equipment available.
J.F. McCrary as President and W.A. Underwood as Vice President and General Manager retired in 1967, and they were replaced by T.H. Redding, President and L. Frank Henry as General Manager. At the death of L. Frank Henry in 1989, Steele Redding became vice President and General Manager. T.H. Redding passed away in 1993 at which time his son Steele Redding assumed the position of President and Johnny Knowles became Vice President and General Manager. Charles McCrary was named Chairman of the board in 1995. In the year 2000, Dean Lail, who joined the company in 1998 from the plastics industry, was named President and Johnny Knowles as COO and VP of Manufacturing. Both report to the CEO, Steele Redding.
Sapona has grown to a position of leadership in stretch yarn production, and this growth came about due to the high quality of its product and the conscientious efforts of dedicated employees to give instantaneous attention to needs and requirements of customers.
At one time there were quite a few mills operating profitably along the Deep River. Most of them are not running today; but Sapona, with its ability and willingness to change from cotton weaving to silk throwing, to false-twist nylon, to air-entangled nylon, has shown that it can and will face the future with enthusiasm!
In 1999 and 2000, Sapona added signficant capacity in the air covering business with modern autodoffing, precision-winding machines from SSM. Sapona also received ISO9000 Quality system certification in 1999.
In 2001, Sapona began to diversify into the service industry. First with Mobile Pet Wash, LLC, which was sold to the founding partners, Jim and Terresia Scoble in 2002. Secondly, with investment in CertiServe Systems, LLC in December 2001. CertiServe is headed by Jim Geiger, CEO of Mechanical System, Inc., a long time supplier to Sapona.
In 2002, Sapona formed a marketing joint venture with McMichael Mills. Jim Brown, formerly with MacField and Unifi, heads the McMichael Sapona Marketing, LLC which will manage the sales and marketing of both companies. Just prior to the joint venture, McMichael had merged with Torque Elastic, Corp. which is managed by Jim Brown.
In April 2004 Sapona acquired the assets of Asheboro Precision Plastics in a joint venture with L&L Plastics. The new joint venture is named Sapona Plastics, LLC and is located near Seagrove, NC, managed by Dean Lail. Steele Redding resumed the President and CEO role of Sapona Mfg. at this time.
In late 2005, Sapona added two additional texturing machines which went operational in early 2006.
Sapona Manufacturing was very involved with its supplier Universal Fibers and a large shoe company to create yarn for their knit tennis shoe in 2012. This specialty yarn allowed a shoe upper to be knitted with less waste in a variety of colors. The business was very strong through 2015 when recycled polyester made in Asia replaced Sapona yarn.
Sapona Manufacturing sold all the assets of the yarn operation to Universal Fibers in
In November of 2021 Sapona Plastics purchased Sapona Manufacturing's interest in the plastics company.