Steve Uretsky is a classic achiever in the old-school model. Growing up in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn where his father was a Rabbi and bookkeeper and his mother was a seamstress, Steve longed to make some money and get out of Brooklyn. So he started the journey at the age of 14 as a busboy.
Later, as a Brooklyn College student with the hope of going to medical school, Steve had an opportunity to take a job testing products at a feather and down company, so he switched to night school. It didn’t take long for the owner to notice him. Soon Steve became the owner’s assistant and eventually learned to run the factory and sell. That’s when he heard about an opportunity in California, and finally left Brooklyn for the west coast.
“You take the opportunities as they come,” he says, reminiscing about his early years. That meant dropping his plans for med school but eventually becoming a partner in Allied Feather & Down.
Allied Feather not only imports, exports, processes and distributes down and feathers used in bedding, garments, home furnishings and furniture, it also has become a preferred supplier to outerwear manufacturers that serve such large and well-known companies as Nike, Ralph Lauren, North Face, Eddie Bauer, MGM Hotels, Wyndham, Marriott, Disney and Costco, among others.
In 2009, Steve bought out his partner’s share, and the company is now managed by Steve and three of his four children, who are active in daily operations. His fourth and youngest child is entering law school.
IDB is a relationship bank. It’s not just about money. As we’ve grown, they’ve said, ‘What do you need?’ They make it their business to understand. They’re part of our success.
Doing the Right Thing
The key to Allied’s success is “doing the right thing,” Steve says. “We not only treat our customers as partners but we’re also looking to be innovative and socially relevant. For example, Allied’s down is processed without using fluorocarbons—a common industry practice that is harmful to the environment.”
“We are mindful of our footprint on the Earth, which is why we implement many environmentally conscious initiatives into our business practices,” says Steve’s son Daniel, who is Allied’s President. The company’s fluorocarbon-free, water resistant technology applied to certified down “offers one of the most environmentally conscious and responsibly developed down products on the market,” he explains.
Allied is also committed to the Textile Exchange’s new Responsible Down Standard, developed in partnership with The North Face, which allows manufacturers to be audited to ensure the ethical treatment of all animals in its down supply chain and validate all claims through an established chain of custody process. Allied is the first adopter and primary supplier of RDS Certified Down.
What they’re doing seems to be paying off. In the down business, Allied is by far the largest producer in the United States and one of the largest in the world, with growth in areas like South Korea and a new operation in Vietnam that is solidifying its strong position. In bedding, Allied is focusing on growing its share of the U.S. market for pillows and comforters.
Allied sources raw material—largely goose and duck down—primarily from China and Europe. Shipments arrive in large bales to the company’s processing site in Montebello. Feathers are then divided up according to quality and type, loaded into the washing machines for cleaning and then conveyed to the fluffing/drying section. Once all the feathers are dried and fluffed, they are packaged neatly into bags and shipped to customers.
At the end of 2015, in fact, Allied purchased a new 80,000 square foot industrial property in Commerce, California, for its bedding department. The new location will securely house inventory and efficiently manage production, while providing customers with a new showroom. Another location of bedding production is in South Carolina to serve East Coast customers.
“It’s not about a quarter of a point, it’s about a relationship.”
Allied has been an IDB customer for over 27 years, and the bank is now its sole lender. “Whatever we’ve done, IDB has been there for us,” Steve says. “It’s not about a quarter of a point, it’s a relationship,” he adds.
That’s particularly important as the new generation takes over, Steve says. “My children are taking the company to a new level. They’re not afraid to try new things. It’s about change, and I know the business is in good hands with a great future ahead.”