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Planet Stitch makes complete orbit at Aamjiwnaang Park

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Cathy Dobson

Duffy Simon was a 26-year-old Lambton College business grad with a strong work ethic and a big love of sports when he started his own company in 2006.

Nearly 12 years later, he has made a large reinvestment in his expanding business and opened a new showroom, production floor and offices that he built for Planet Stitch Promotional Products and Apparel at the Chippewas of Sarnia Industrial Park.

“We had grown to the point where I really couldn’t even look for new business at our old shop because we couldn’t fit more in there,” Simon said.  “And there wasn’t any more space to rent in the industrial park that was the right size.”

“I had to decide that we would either downsize or grow. I chose to grow.”

Planet Stitch’s success story is built on a lot of 18-hour work days and a first-of-its-kind agreement between Simon and the Aamjiwnaang First Nation band, which allowed him to purchase two acres adjacent to the industrial park and build on it.

It took years to negotiate the deal and get the financing in place, but Simon’s dream to expand his business was realized last week at a grand opening for the new Planet Stitch at 560 Williams Dr.

“I could have left the reserve and got financing a lot more quickly, but this is where I want to be,” said Simon. “This is my home.”

Hundreds of current and prospective clients were invited to the grand opening barbecue and open house.

“Word of mouth and building relationships is really important to me,” said Simon.  “I am interested in keeping the work in Sarnia, not shipping it out of town.

“I say, let’s employ people here. Work with me and you can hold me accountable for every job.”

Simon, who was born and raised on Aamjiwnaang, wasn’t certain what kind of business he wanted to pursue when he finished college. But his uncle Al Simon reminded him of the connections he’d developed playing organized sports.

“My uncle said there is a need for embroidery.”

In the early days, Simon rented a small space on Degurse Road, bought his first embroidery machine, taught himself how to operate it and put in a lot of long days.

Initially, Planet Stitch tapped into the team shirt and golf shirt market.

“But I quickly learned you have to go in a lot of different directions to be busy year round,” he said. Today, he also sells customized corporate products like mugs, water bottles, hats, pens and stickers.

His mom, Patsy, is his bookkeeper and his staff has grown from three to seven.

Four years into the business, Planet Stitch rented additional space up the road. But it wasn’t enough and the new facility was needed.

When Simon was working on the blueprints, he incorporated a large gym behind his production floor so his brother Jason can run after school programs for children.

It’s a way of giving back to his community, said Simon.  “This is something our family believes in.”

Construction had already started last fall when a major design change was needed to add nine more offices being leased by the Tecumseh Development Corporation, a lending firm that helped Planet Stitch get off the ground years ago.

“It all comes full circle,” said Pat Simon.

The new Planet Stitch building is at 560 Williams Dr. Call 519-344-6757 or visit www.planetstitch.com.

Got an interesting business story? Contact [email protected] or call 226-932-0985.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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