Berkeley Hall’s Marsha Levin, owner of Crown Clothing Company, shares good business advice.
Story by Eddy Hoyle
Marsha Levin is the owner and president of Crown Clothing Company in Vineland, NJ, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. This family-owned company was founded by her husband’s father and grandfather. Upon her father-in-law’s death, it passed to her husband, Howard. In 2013 it passed to her upon his death. She had worked at the company for 10 years previously, and she had 35 years of experience in human resources to bring to bear in her new role.
Levin said that when she and Howard took over in the mid 80s, the company made men’s suit jackets, sport coats and ladies’ blazers. They made for high-end names in the civilian clothing market, but business was down because most manufacturing was going overseas. However, a fortuitous scandal presented an opportunity when the Philadelphia Inquirer broke a story about companies that made military uniforms. They were charged with taking bribes for contract awards and they were debarred from bidding on future contracts.
“We got lucky when others broke the law,” Levin stated. “In 1987 we got an Army contract, and we persevered. Then in 1989 we got a five-year Marine Corps contract to make the dress-green coats and went on to get another contract for dress-blue coats. Since then, we have only had one customer: the US government.”
It was 1989 when the Levins first came to the Lowcountry on vacation and were invited to play golf at Haig Point on Daufuskie Island. They loved it so much, they bought a condo there in 1991, and were part-time residents until 1998, when they bought a permanent home on the mainland. Levin now lives in Berkeley Hall and has been an avid golfer. She and Howard each have had five holes-in-one, and it’s her goal to get one more so she will top his record. She added that she was privileged to play in the Heritage golf tournament three times. “Over the years, I’ve believed in the importance of giving back, supporting our veterans, educational scholarships, and local non-profits in our community.”
Here are her tips for success:
Keys to Success
1. Be prepared. “We should all understand that our personal and business lives are entwined,” Levin explained. “Whatever you do in your personal life, do in your business life. Never over-extend yourself, and put money away for the unexpected. Save for a rainy day. To me, Covid has taught us that you never know what’s coming. You’ve got to have money ready for these situations.”
2. People first. Levin said, “Hire the very best people, and always think about them – keep them in the forefront of your mind and treat them very well. They come first. With Covid in mind, we must provide whatever they need to be safe. Pay them a fair wage, and ensure a healthy work environment. Hire people who trust and share your goals. My goal is for my business to keep going long after I’m gone, so the people I hire must have the same goals.”
3. Never forget. “Never forget where you came from and how you got where you are,” Levin advised. “We all have to work our way up. We can’t ever forget what those before us did to keep a business afloat. And we should be thankful every day.”
4. Good choices. “Make good choices about your business,” Levin said. “Look for new contracts, address capital needs, and recognize that equipment will have to be replaced, for example. Put money aside so that when you strive to make good choices personally and in business, you can succeed.”
5. Quality counts. Levin emphasized how important it is to turn out a good product. “When you work for the government,” she explained, “you’re under a microscope. So if you do what’s right for your people, and what’s right in your business, being under such scrutiny shouldn’t matter.”