Built In The Blue Ridge: Oak Hall Cap & Gown

By Patrick McKee - Anchor
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SALEM (WSLS 10) - Looking good for family and friends while making memories is the business of Oak Hall Cap and Gown in Salem.

"Oak Hall is a manufacturer of robes," says president Joe D'Angleo, describing the company. He continues, "We manufacture robes for high schools, elementary schools, colleges, universities and for judges. In fact, every Supreme Court Justice wears our robe today and has for quite some time."

Oak Hall provides caps and gowns to about 40% of the nation's colleges and universities and 25% of high schools. It's quality that keeps the schools coming back year after year.

Some of the gowns they make come from recycled materials. They will take plastic bottles and crush them down and ground it into small pieces. They then stretch that out to make the thread. Twenty-three bottles makes one gown.  Over the years, the company has kept 50 million bottles out of landfills.

Though the product changed over the years, President Joe D'Angelo says the reason behind the company's success stays the same: loyal employees, "the key to success is having very strong employees and our employee base, and maybe i'm prejudice, is the very best in this country."

So loyal that one person has worked for Oak Hall for more than fifty years. They stay loyal because they know they will be taken care of. In the company's 126 year history it has never laid off a single employee.  "It's important that Oak Hall shows our commitment to our employees to say that you're important enough that we have to find employment for you 52 weeks a year," says D'Angelo about the commitment.

The work force continues to grow with the company. It has production facilities in Salem, Chillhowie and Wytheville and soon a new plant in Independence where 100 new employees will work. It's an expansion that caught the attention of Governor Terry McAuliffe.  D'Angelo says the governor's visit was humbling, "for the governor to take time from his busy schedule and recognize us was very humbling and rewarding."

Even more rewarding are the faces of graduates on their big day.  "The amount of pride and excitement stemming from that major achievement makes our job very rewarding," D'Angelo comments.

The company makes nearly three million gowns every year that ship to schools across the country.

Copyright by WSLS - All rights reserved