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Van Dyke's to remain open in Woonsocket

WOONSOCKET -- Following a round of layoffs that left approximately 15 people unemployed, an official with a Woonsocket business said it will remain open.

Van Dyke's Taxidermy Supply in Woonsocket, who announced layoffs back in September, will not being closing its doors according to Plant manager Susan Kalb. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Van Dyke's Taxidermy Supply in Woonsocket, who announced layoffs back in September, will not being closing its doors according to Plant manager Susan Kalb. (Matt Gade / Republic)

WOONSOCKET - Following a round of layoffs that left approximately 15 people unemployed, an official with a Woonsocket business said it will remain open.

In late September, a wave of layoffs slammed Van Dyke's Taxidermy Supply, sparking speculation from area residents about whether or not the business would remain open.

But Plant Manager Susan Kalb squashed those concerns Thursday, and added she does not anticipate any more layoffs in the foreseeable future.

The round of layoffs, Kalb said, came as a downsizing move from Van Dyke's North Carolina-based parent company, McKenzie Taxidermy Supply. A second business, also owned by McKenzie, was chosen to be the sole producer, packager and distributor of foam mannequins and wooden bases used in taxidermy displays.

"Starting over the summer, shipping will no longer be here," Kalb said. "The glass eye manufacturing will stay."

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According to Kalb, Van Dyke's is known around the region for its production of glass eyes for taxidermy displays of birds, fish, reptiles, deer and other animals.

Van Dyke's was purchased from Gridiron Capital and Cabela's by McKenzie in 2009, and has been a staple in the Sanborn County town for decades. Kalb said Van Dyke's first opened in Wessington Springs in 1949, and moved to its Woonsocket location a few years later. As of Thursday, Van Dyke's employs 38 people.

Many of those left unemployed by fall layoffs weren't left to fend for themselves, Kalb said.

"The people in shipping, we've actually tried them in some of the glass eye positions, and I'm hoping to be able to move them to that," Kalb said. "That's my plan."

And, although employees' initial reactions to the layoffs ranged from shocked to nervous to angry, the company has rebounded well, Kalb said. Since then, she said, everyone has banded together to continue producing quality products and providing exemplary service.

"Everyone's pulling together to get the job done," Kalb said. "They want to keep their job and I think it's been pretty much people doing that pulling together to keep what they have."

Woonsocket Mayor Lindy Peterson said he's glad the 38 jobs with Van Dyke's will remain in town, but the layoffs were a "big hit" to the local economy - a blow from which the town is struggling to recover.

And even though city officials are trying to boost economic development by advertising available buildings throughout town, Peterson said there aren't many takers, and he's skeptical how long Van Dyke's will remain open, despite reassurance from company officials.

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"They've cut back on employees quite a bit, so who knows how long they'll stay open, I guess," Peterson said. "There's not much for jobs in town here, nobody's building or adding on. Small towns are tough, and it's a tough go, but we're glad they're still here."

Van Dyke's Taxidermy Supply in Woonsocket, who announced layoffs back in September, will not being closing its doors according to Plant manager Susan Kalb. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Van Dyke's Taxidermy Supply in Woonsocket, who announced layoffs back in September, will not being closing its doors according to Plant manager Susan Kalb. (Matt Gade / Republic)

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