BIDDEFORD — It was just about one year ago that Roxi Suger and her husband Julian Schlaver moved to Biddeford from Brooklyn and opened the high-end retail store Suger, named after the designer, featuring her Angelrox clothing line.

Marking the store’s anniversary, the company, which was founded in 1999, has undergone an expansion.

It moved its production house and office space out of the Alfred Street store and into the Pepperell Mill Campus on Main Street.

The 1.1-million square foot Pepperell Mill Campus, which includes the North Dam Mill, also includes buildings that were last used by WestPoint Home.  

The buildings on the campus date back to the 1800s and at one point had been used as part of Biddeford’s long ago burgeoning textile industry.

WestPoint Home was the last of the major textile manufacturers in the city’s mill district; it closed the operation in 2009.

But in her own small way Suger is trying to revive the city’s textile industry. She is one of several textile businesses that have located at Doug Sanford’s Pepperell Mill Campus, attracted by affordable rent and the textile history housed in the buildings.

“We’re ramping up here,” said Suger on Tuesday. She said she now has 13 employees, a combination of full and part-time, in Biddeford.

That includes two full-time stitchers. She also has two contracted stitchers in Massachusetts who have worked with her since she started her clothing line.

“I’m gearing up to hire one or two more (stitchers) in Biddeford,” said Suger.  

Suger said the size of her company is growing as her sales grow. Most of her clothing, which includes a lot of wraps and versatile pieces that can be used for work, recreation and travel, is sold at more than 200 retail locations around the country. Clothing can also be purchased online at the Angelrox website. Locally, it can be found at her signature store Suger. And this year, just for the holidays, she is opening a pop-up store in New York City.

Before making the move to Biddeford, Suger and Schlaver had been visiting the area to visit Schlaver’s father who lives in Saco.

When they decided to bring the business and move to the area permanently, “the mills were always on our radar,” said Suger. “The lure of the history of the textiles mills has always been a draw for us.”

“We almost moved directly to the mills but I campaigned to move into the downtown, because Biddeford needed it,” she said.

But, Suger said, they have outgrown the Alfred Street space so while the retail arm will stay there, she is thrilled to finally be in the mills where there is more room, including room to grow.

Angelrox is the latest textile company to move to the Pepperell Mill Campus’ former mill buildings, but not the first.

HyperLite Mountain Gear, which manufactures ultralight backpacks and tents for adventurers, was founded by Michael St. Pierre, a former chef, in January 2010.

Like Suger, he’s another New York transplant, who also had family ties to the area.

St. Pierre said he located in the Biddeford mills for a couple of reasons.

“Based on its history, I figured there would be a workforce of sewers,” he said.

Unfortunately, said St. Pierre, that isn’t the case and he is always looking to fill more openings in order to grow his company.

The mills also have “a cool history,” he said, adding that he hopes more manufacturing will move to the area.

Another textile company in the old mill is the Saco River Dyehouse. The company, owned by Claudia and Ken Raessler, opened in December 2012.

Currently the mill district is going through a resurgence. Plans are in the works to turn the space into residential units, restaurants, and a variety of retail, office and light manufacturing uses.

But with companies like Angelrox, HyperLite Mountain Gear and the Saco River Dyehouse located there, many hope that the city’s textile past, the former economic engine of Biddeford, will remain at least a small part of its future.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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