Passing through Zebulon, North Carolina, on Gannon Avenue, you might see the large, retro sign for Devil Dog Dungarees along the road. The sign is a reminder of North Carolina’s textile industry history and of manufacturing in Zebulon.
The Devil Dog Dungarees factory opened around 1954. The family-owned business had started in New York, and moved to NC to open sewing factories in Zebulon and other towns. Changes in the textile industry at that time prompted many companies to move to the state and business was booming.
Devil Dog Dungarees — actually Devil Dog Manufacturing Co. — has operated continuously in Zebulon since 1954, registering with the state in 1952. In its prime, the company employed as many as 1,200 in NC.
In the late 1990s, changes to the textile and apparel industry came again. Jobs sewing apparel began moving to other parts of the world. Riding through the industry changes while the apparel industry disappeared in the US, Devil Dog continues today.
Originally a sewing facility, Devil Dog’s Zebulon plant currently serves as a distribution center for apparel they make elsewhere and distributes to department stores. The Gannon location employs approximately 95 people today.
Said Tony Shannahan, a 32-year employee still with the company, “We are quite proud of the fact we’re still here. A lot of companies did not survive that period of time.”
Over the years, local residents not only worked at the plant, they were able to purchase apparel via the Devil Dog outlet store. Business adjustments led to closing the outlet two years ago this Fall. While the sewing and jeans may be a thing of the past, the distribution company and its unique “dungarees” sign continue to be a part of Zebulon today.
Originally published in The Grey Area newspaper (printed) September 1, 2011.