Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — Ridgeview Inc. has signed a deal to sell its women’s hosiery division for $8.4 million in cash to one of its senior executives.
The agreement is expected to be approved by the end of the month.
Once final, Barry Tartarkin, president of Ridgeview’s hosiery division, will take over the company’s legwear label Reve Avoix and its licensed brands Ellen Tracy, Dolce Calze and Evan-Picone.
Reached in Ridgeview’s New York office Thursday, Tartarkin said he plans to operate the new company under the name JBT Hosiery. He will lease some of Ridgeview’s distribution center and production facility, which are located in Newton, N.C., the company’s base. Tartarkin has also purchased the equipment at the production site.
The 200 employees who work at Ridgeview’s production facilities will continue to be employed by JBT Hosiery, Tartarkin said.
As part of the deal, Ridgeview will maintain its sport sock division, which is its core business. The sale is expected to be completed by the end of this month.
Founded in 1912, Ridgeview designs, manufactures and markets legwear for women, men and children. The company also operates manufacturing facilities in Mebane, N.C.; Ft. Payne, Ala., and Tralee, Ireland.
Tartarkin and Hugh Gaither, president and chief executive officer of Ridgeview, declined to specify how Tartarkin’s new company will differ from the existing one.
Industry sources and other Ridgeview executives, however, have indicated that Tartarkin plans to focus more on marketing to jazz-up the company’s image and attract younger women to hosiery departments.
Part of that plan is already in play. Last month, the company unveiled Reve Avoix, a collection of seamless leg-highs with coordinating bikini panties or thongs aimed at women between the ages of 18 and 35. Unlike thigh-highs, leg-highs are two to three inches and they have microfiber bands to encourage everyday use.
The company poured $500,000 into Reve Avoix’s product development, which includes in-store displays, extensive advertising and point-of-purchase material. To try to simplify shopping, there are only two sizes, with offerings split into daywear, eveningwear and bridal.
First-year projected wholesale volume is $2 million.
“I think Barry Tartarkin will make a difference. He will put the emphasis on new products and new ideas like the one he just marketed,” said Frank Oswald, a marketing consultant who worked with DuPont for more than 40 years. “He won’t run a traditional hosiery company.”
Oswald said that Tartarkin will most likely market non-hosiery products as well as legwear under his new company.
“Barry and Russ Klein [president of Tommy Hilfiger’s women’s legwear] are the two guys who get it better than any of the others. They understand what’s needed in the market and the changes that must be made,” Oswald said.
Tartarkin, who joined Ridgeview as a sales representative in 1992, has worked in the hosiery industry since 1977. At that time, he first went to work in sales for his father Sidney’s company, Tartarkin Sales, which represented accessories and hosiery collections including Hope Hosiery and Rice Hosiery. (Rice has since been sold to Sara Lee.)
After changing the company’s name to TGC Inc. in 1980, Tartarkin developed its own brand called Razzmataz, a label for department stores. Sidney Tartarkin continues to run TGC Inc.
Five years later, the younger Tartarkin went out on his own, forming JB Hosiery and securing the U.S. distribution rights for Dolce Calze, an Italian label.
In 1990, Tartarkin lined up Ellen Tracy as his firm’s first licensed line and he brought that label to Ridgeview when he joined the company two years later.
On Thursday, Tartarkin said he never planned to build a career in the hosiery business.
“There actually was a day when I came home and told my mother that I was never going back to work again in sales. I hated it that much. I kept going because I had no choice. I was working for my father,” Tartarkin said. “Twenty-three years later, I’m sill kicking around in this business. Now I really have no choice. I don’t know how to do anything else. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.”

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