Green Mountain Glove Factory Changes Hands
Old Business Finds Young Blood
Sam Hooper of Brookfield tells a story about a fellow rushing to catch a train. Safely aboard, he sees a glove lying on the platform. Realizing it’s his, he lowers the window, and throws out the second, keeping the pair intact.
“Those gloves were so fine, so wonderful, they were like old friends. They had a life,” explained Hooper, in a recent interview, adding, “He threw the mate out, hoping someone would put them to use and come to appreciate them just as much as he did.”
Hooper likes to tell this story, he said, to explain how he came to love a pair of work gloves so much that he bought the company that makes them.
They’re tough gloves that are easy on the hands. Green Mountain Glove Company, the manufacturer, is a few months shy of the century mark but, despite this, most folks in Randolph would be hard-pressed to direct you to the company’s small manufacturing plant on Pearl Street.
The Haupt family has been central to the firm since founder, Kurt Reichel, brought Richard Ernst Haupt from New York City in 1919. Richard eventually bought the company, passing it to his son, Kurt, who was named for Reichel.
Credited for the work gloves’ patented designs and quality, Kurt Haupt worked at the firm well into his 90s, alongside his son, Kurt Jr., and granddaughter, Heidi.
Heidi Haupt sews gloves on the Green Mountain Glove factory floor. (Herald / Bob Eddy)
Hooper, son of Allison and Don Hooper of Brookfield, first learned about Green Mountain Glove upon returning to the area after graduation from Connecticut College in 2016.
At the time, Allison Hooper was in the midst of selling Vermont Butter and Cheese, the company she founded in her 20s, to Land O’Lakes.
The family kept Ayers Brook Goat Dairy, now run by Sam’s older brother Miles. Sam’s twin, Jay, successfully campaigned for the Vermont House, while Sam divided his time between regional rep work for Vermont Butter and Cheese and field work on the goat farm.
“That’s where the gloves came in,” explained Hooper. “Like everyone who buys their first pair, I thought they were a bit pricey. You can get gloves cheap at Home Depot but, my gosh, these gloves are amazing!”
Kurt Haupt liked to call his work gloves “blister free.” The carefully selected, top-quality goatskin leather, coupled with Haupt’s unique, patented designs, results in gloves as enduring and tough on the job as they are easy on the hands.
“My grandfather wore these gloves. My father wears these gloves,” marveled Hooper, “and when my brothers and I put them on, I felt something special.
“I started digging and doing my homework about the industry,” he continued. “I felt a company with 100 years of Vermont history probably ought to run for another 100 years.
“So, I asked Kurt if I could come learn the operation as an intern for some time before making an offer on the business. After many months of diligence, we came to a deal. Sure, we have some work to do, but we have the team to do it,” he said.
Hooper added that he feels “privileged and excited for the opportunity to carry on this family legacy side-by-side with Heidi Haupt, the fourth generation. She’s a shareholder, and that’s important.”
Hooper said he felt a bit emotional last Friday, when Kurt Haupt handed him the keys.
“My family has just gone through the sale of a legacy business,” he commented. “I fully understand the emotional stress that comes with letting go of something that defines your identity.
“With that said,” he said, “my goal is to further the Haupt legacy, to make Kurt and his family proud.”
Kurt Haupt is a big, soft-spoken man. He tells of starting out at the old Rexall drug store in Randolph following high school, before joining his father at Green Mountain Glove.
Compared to his dad, who began making gloves at age 11, he came to the business late.
Kurt senior liked to tell a story about one winter day, “colder than fury,” when he asked his dad for a pair of gloves.
“Find the pieces and make your own,” came the reply.
He did, and then continued to make gloves of his own design for eight decades more.
The Haupts know all gloves are not created equal. For example, too little length between the palm and the thumb seam will bind the hand, not allowing it to open fully.
Goat hides tanned in Gloversville, N.Y., are carefully measured for thickness. The heaviest sections are used for thumbs, the area of greatest wear. Palms must be uniformly thick, while the backs, requiring more stretch and less durability, incorporate the thinner parts of the hide. The leather is pieced to permit stretch in the right directions.
Extra pieces of leather are sewn onto finger-tips and into seams for exceptional durability.
Finally, one Haupt innovation was to craft the work glove with an unbroken piece of leather across the palm and up the work surface of the thumb. While more difficult to make, this design is tougher on the job and kinder on the hands.
The resulting gloves were described by Smith & Hawken, the now-defunct upscale California garden-supply firm, as “the toughest” anywhere.
“There’s four generations of Haupt integrity and intelligence sewn into every pair of these beauties,” observed Hooper on Monday this week, adding, “These standards will not change.”
“We’re not in the business of making more junk for the world to absorb and consume in order for us to make a buck…People who work hard for a living appreciate good footwear and know it doesn’t come cheap. It’s the same story with gloves. And, hands down, these are the best.”
Heidi Haupt, said, smiling, “These gloves last because we’re all perfectionists. I remember one customer saying, ‘I bought this pair about 25 years ago and, finally, it’s time to replace them!”
“Having Sam come in is exciting,” she added. “He brings enthusiasm, careful research, good ideas, and he follows through on them.”
Kurt Haupt concurred with his daughter’s assessment, and admitted he will be stopping by from time to time to check in.
Sam Hooper is grateful for all the help he can get.
“I tell you, Friday afternoon, post-closing, was not easy for me. It was the first time that Kurt left the building before me and it was my job to lock up,” Hooper said.
“His knowledge, expertise, and personality are invaluable and comforting, as Heidi and I set out to line up another 100 years of success and service.”