For four generations, a company in tiny Nocona, Texas, has been stitching baseball gloves by hand for America's greatest players — and it has no plans on letting up.
(NORCONA, Texas) — For four generations, a company in tiny Nocona, Texas, has been stitching baseball gloves by hand for America’s greatest players — and it has no plans on letting up.
Nokona Leather Goods was started in 1926 by Executive Vice President Rob Storey’s grandfather, Robert “Big Bob” Storey.
A local banker, he started the company as a wallet-and-purse factory. When the Great Depression settled in, however, he began looking for a different focus to keep his leather company alive.
In 1934, Storey’s grandfather, who had also played baseball at Rice University in Texas, made the company’s first baseball glove. That’s when Nokona Ball Gloves was born.
The company, which now employs 50 workers, makes 150 baseball gloves a day. The gloves are worn by players on the Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins, as well as the Kansas City Royals.
“My grandfather in the ’60s kinda set the tone for the company in that we weren’t going to go overseas to produce gloves. We weren’t going to chase the cheapest dollar, the cheapest labor, because we’re in a small town here in Texas,” Storey told ABC News. “It’s very important to us that we’re part of the local community and that we use American labor.”
The domestic leathers that the company gets predominantly come from Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Nebraska. The domestic leathers are tanned in Milwaukee and Chicago, where most of the old tanneries originated, according to Storey.
“We’re always striving to use the best possible leather to make the best possible glove for the fit that we need,” Storey said.
Gloves start at around $225.
Storey said that having U.S. workers were a “big advantage for us because we can use labor and use people that know how to make a glove but also know something about the game. … With a Nokona glove, it’s made by an American and somebody that can go and see a game at night.”
The company is also a family affair for some workers.
“Each one of these people who work here puts everything they have into this job, everything they have into each baseball glove — and you can’t ask for better,” said Josh Yeargin, who works in shipping and receiving and whose mother, Carla Yeargin, also works at Nokona. “Having players out there using our gloves. I mean, that’s just amazing.”
Employee Brandy Claxton said customers were often surprised that the company made the baseball mitts by hand.
“We have a lot of TLC into our gloves. We’re not machine-made products — we have people that are actually sitting in the chairs. They touch every glove that comes through and that makes it personal,” Claxton said. “To see the American flag on the glove, on the side of the glove, and even stamped on the palm. It makes them very proud. You don’t see a lot of products that are made in America anymore.”
Jeff Beraznik, Nokona’s president, said the quality and attention to detail made the company’s gloves different.
“We can make good business decisions and make sure that Nokona is in a solid financial position for the future and a big part of that is that secret weapon of being made in America,” Beraznik said.