Success measured in feet: Thorlo thriving - | WBTV Charlotte

Success measured in feet: Thorlo thriving


A local textile company is seeing a lot of success these days, one foot at a time. The company is called Thorlo, they have locations in Statesville and Rockwell.

What makes these socks special?

It's a padded, activity specific sock made by a company celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. Using its own designs and even proprietary yarns, Thorlos have built quite a following.

"This product makes such an impression on people that they talk about it. It's probably the only sock in the world that people talk about," owner James L. Throneburg told WBTV. "They can always explain their first experience with Thorlo."

People talk about the comfort, Throneburg says there's more to it.

"I've turned it into a health issue," the Statesville native said.  "All of your activities, your mobility, your ability to be mobile starts with your feet. No foot, no mobility, no health, period, end of report."

But not the end of the story. Throneburg also talks about how he runs the company.   It's a culture that he says encourages workers to put the customer's needs first, but also have a stake in their own futures.

"There will be 300 people standing in line to take the janitor's job someday, not because they want to be a janitor, they just want in the building because they know that's the entry way to becoming the chief executive officer," Throneburg added.  "The only thing you'll ever be great at is something you love to do, you'll never be great at something for any other reason other than you love it."

Throneburg describes his management style as a little out of the ordinary.

"Improv, the closest thing to this issue, and it's messy, it's not clear cut there's a lot of ambiguity in our work life, in our culture, because it requires us to try to get on the same page with one another, when these people do get on the same page with one another it save $2 million a year in inventory costs."

Throneburg has eight children, three of them work in the business, but here's a surprising twist...

"I've also set it up so that my children will never inherit it. They'll always own a piece of it, always get money from it, but they won't be able to control it," Throneburg said.

Thorlo is set to be run by four trusts, including the non-profit Institute for Preventive Foot Health, which is a resource for best practices for preventive foot health. Throneburg says that will guarantee that his vision and the culture he's created will survive.

"This is the way we be competitive and stay in America when all other hosiery people are now buying their socks from Taiwan, China, wherever it's about, okay, this is the way we stay competitive."

That competitive nature, combined with a high quality commitment has earned some the company some valuable press over the years.  Former women's tennis great Martina Navratilova, she discovered the socks on her own then volunteered an endorsement.

"We re engineer technology, we re engineer raw materials," Throneburg added.  "We've created a culture of how we work with people, our quality is greatly above any standard that people have for socks."

The company also has a long history of making special socks for military service and allowing customers to buy them for half price if they donate them to the military.

2013 has already been a big year for Thorlo.  The company is celebrating its 60th anniversary, and has been the focus of a one hour documentary that is currently airing on the RLTV Network.

Thorlo employs approximately 300 workers in Iredell and Rowan Counties.

To learn more about Thorlo, you can visit the newly redesigned web site here:

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