Catherine Connolly, chief executive officer of Massachusetts-based textile manufacturer Merida, has purchased the firm from Dr. Hiram M. Samel, the company's majority owner for more than 30 years.
Over the last seven years, Samel worked in partnership with Connolly to make several significant changes, including expanding its manufacturing mill in Fall River, investing in heritage and modern looms as well as advanced weaving capabilities and building a team of craftspeople and design talent.
Connolly and Merida will continue to build on those investments as the company expands its portfolio of products made in the U.S. and to collaborate with global partners.
"I believe there is a real gap in the market for beautiful, high-quality products made by expert craftspeople with relatively short lead times,” said Connolly. “We are in an excellent position to address this gap with our design expertise and our manufacturing capabilities.”
“Under the leadership of Zairo Cheibub, director of operations and sustainability, we have been able to bring innovation and technology to our manufacturing process while elevating the beauty and integrity of our materials. Cheibub has also worked with our global partners to make our products sustainable. We have also teamed up with GoodWeave to support weavers in Nepal and to end child labor in the rug industry. It is my hope that by working directly with the design community we can highlight the importance of buying quality products that respect the makers as well as the materials; and that we can continue to make a positive impact in the communities where we do business-and in particular here in Fall River."
Over the past few years under Connolly's leadership, Merida has made several strategic changes, including a shift in the company's distribution model. In 2012, Merida decided to close more than 1,000 existing carpet dealer accounts across the U.S. in favor of a "direct-to-trade" sales model.
Connolly recognized that by partnering directly with interior designers, architects, and hospitality groups, the company could realize the full value of its design expertise, craftsmanship, knowledge of materials, and extensive customization capabilities. Connolly also saw the tremendous value her experienced team could bring to client projects when they were engaged early in the process and involved from start to finish.
With a renewed focus on product development, last year Connolly promoted Roxanne Hanna to the role of creative director. Having served in various roles at Merida for 15 years, Hanna has translated Merida's heritage for innovation into a unique design point of view that is evident in the company's new collections produced in Fall River.
“I could not be more thrilled about this opportunity,” Connolly said. “We have an incredible team of craftspeople who enjoy working with designers as much the designers enjoy working with them."