This week the Maker’s Row team got an inside peek of Spoiled Rotten, one of the few sewing factories in the Bronx. We arrived just as the staff was returning from their lunch break, and the owner, Eric Beroff, warmly offered us a tour. From high-end wool capes to tennis outfits and dog jackets, Spoiled Rotten has a lot going on right now.
Why is it important to you to be an American manufacturer? Why are you proud to be #AmericanMade?
Being an American manufacturer, it gives me the ability to bring back jobs to the US, keep people employed, give people a trade, and a place to go. It brings money to our economy. The name of the game is obviously to try and rebuild the American economy, so we can improve the poverty level here. Factory workers are mostly immigrants. These are people who have a skill, a great skill and it holds a major place for me to give these people a place to go and see the garments and other sewn garments made and not have to get on a plane. Clients can come up here to the Bronx and see things in real time, it’s in the here and now if there are any problems, they don’t have to get on a plane or talk to someone 12+ hours away.
It’s our goal to continue to service the niche American market, and the designers who are needing to sew small quantities. It is definitely my goal to grow not only our facility but to help the local, fashion designers, people coming out of school, and those already established and give them a home. Transparency is what we try to express to them; that clients are able to come up here to the factory anytime, see their products on the machines, and watch their product come alive; from making a pattern, making a sample, and, as I put it, watching their product dance off the machines. It is a really fulfilling thing to see, especially to those that are new. We are looking forward to continuing to offer our services and expanding upon our services as the years go on.
What are some fun things you’re working on right now?
I just designed a clothing line for a famous athlete and an outfit for a famous talk show host. Beyond apparel, I also work on any type of sewing project. Currently, I’m doing bamboo facial napkins, head wraps, and a lot of dog stuff. Some of my favorite projects are the non-apparel challenges, like petwear and pillowcases.
Any particularly interesting customers?
Yes, many. One of my customers is a 47-year old jumbo jet pilot who just got a poetry degree from Harvard and wants to make a T-shirt. I find her very intriguing.
What’s your secret to running a factory smoothly?
I’m really strict about good customer service and quality control – you can check out my reviews on Maker’s Row and see for yourself. We always stick to our schedule, and everybody knows that. Customers are always welcome to come up here and check the progress of their pieces – touch and feel them.
Communication is the most important thing. Even if something goes wrong, always communicate it. I’ll always respond to customers and try and accommodate them, whether they are big or little. I enjoy helping them as much as I can.
Do customers often take you up on your offer to come visit the space?
All the time! We have an office in Manhattan, but now I mostly prefer that customers come here to the factory. Brands want high quality and want to know what they are receiving and be able to actually see that in the flesh, reflected in their product. It’s all transparent.
What’s your day typically like?
I get up at 5 and go to the gym. I’m here by 7 or 8 until 7 in the evening. The days are definitely long, and I’m on my feet all the time.
How many people work here?
I have 17 girls who work here right now, and it’s very important to me that I take good care of them. We have air conditioning for when it gets hot in the summer and personal heaters for each person during the wintertime.
Do you have a minimum order quantity?
My minimum is 50 pieces, which is unheard of, and I charge $75 for a sample, which is very cheap. Right now I’m doing a high quality wool cape for a customer in Minnesota who I’ve never met. 400-500 pieces.
Do you focus on high-end only?
No. My bread and butter is still middle America. But you’ll see a trend among American manufacturers towards high-quality and high-end pieces, and we welcome those orders too.
Where does the name Spoiled Rotten come from?
Back when I started, I used to make “University of Spoiled Rotten” shirts and use the phrase Spoiled Rotten for a kid’s line. The name kind of stuck with us.
Speaking of which, how did you get started?
I’ve been in business for 30 years. Believe it or not, I was pre-med in college. I then started selling T-shirts and sweaters from the back of my car. I was dating someone who was a fit model in the Garment District, and through that, met some factories in Chinatown. The next thing I knew, I changed my major to business and computer science, and I had a business of my own. I did a lot of blanks back then I did the International Fashion Boutique show 4-5 times a year. It doesn’t exist anymore. Since the, my business has changed so many times. Our attitude is that you have to adapt.
Were you scared to make that leap?
I wasn’t scared at all – it was innate. It felt very comfortable. I had a small desk in midtown at age 22. For my first sales visit, I wore a suit, and that was a mistake. No one wears suits in the Garment District.
Any particularly trying times?
9/11 was a very emotional for me, especially because I was on a plane at the time. I’m also from New York. After that, we ran a half-page ad in Women’s Wear Daily for a long time, with the slogan, “The fabric of America has never been stronger.” It was about supporting the community.
What are some of your visions for the future?
In 2-3 years, the walls and floors will be different and the machinery all lined up. The staff should be very happy. I’m not interested in craziness, but consistency and balance. In other words, I want a streamlined, steady workshop with some steady customers I can rely on season after season. Of course I’ll always try out new things too. One vision I have is to open this space for seminars that designers can come network at.
What do you think of Maker’s Row?
It’s a great resource – I tell people all the time to go on Maker’s Row. You guys can build your own trade show.