Avondale closes its doors for good

By: Lynnsey Gardner
By: Lynnsey Gardner

It's the official end of the line for almost all Avondale Mills employees. Today is the final day for plant operations.

Today was a very quiet day in Graniteville.

The company began its systematic shut down of its plants last week.

The company spent sixteen months and over $140million trying to restore their plants to normal operation after the January 2005 train wreck.

But Avondale Mills never recovered.

A Norfolk Southern train rolls through Graniteville at the same time that most Avondale Mill workers would take their lunch breaks. But not today...and not ever again.

Rosalyn worked there for eight years.

"It was heartbreaking, but sometimes things happen for a reason," she says.

Rosalyn said she tried her best to remain hopeful that her town and the company would pull through.

"Even after the announcement, I thought there was a chance that it would bounce back," she says.

Five generations of the Felker family helped to build the business up, and Steven Felker, Jr. expressed how hard it was to watch it fall.

"I talked to my family about it, it feels like my grandfather has died. It's hard to put into words what it feels like."

The derailment of two Norfolk Southern trains killed nine people last January. Thousands more were exposed to the 60 to 70 tons of toxic chlorine gas that leaked into the air. Some who survived live with their injuries everyday.

Fire Chief Phil Napier says Graniteville will not become a ghost town.

"Our community will thrive and continue to move forward, because we are strong people. We're tight knit and we stick together," he says.

The town that was once home to Avondale Mills hopes to continue to be a home to many in the future.

"The majority of people I've talked to say it's sad that Avondale is closing down, but it's not going to be the end of us," Chief Napier says. "I don't plan on going anywhere. This is my home and I've heard a lot of people say that. We are going to stay here."

Of the 18 plants in Graniteville, three have been sold, saving 600 jobs.

A few plants will continue to run limited operations while negotiations to buy some of the remaining plants continue.

Felker says negotiations are in the final stages. He says we can expect answers very soon. The sooner the better--all employee benefit packages expire at the end of the month.


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