A Skowhegan firm that sells popular tick-repellent dog vests to a variety of New England and regional stores and distributors has gone national with a contract with Wal-Mart.

Dog Not Gone Visibility Products will send its first shipment of blaze orange dog vests to Wal-Mart on Feb. 24.

“It was a lot of work getting to this point and we wanted to celebrate it,” company co-founder Bill Swain said Friday.

That shipment comes about a year after the company moved into the former Dirigo Stitching mill in Skowhegan in 2015. The company plans to make an event out of that first shipment, with local dignitaries and business leaders “helping to load the truck.”

Swain, with his wife Julie, of Kingfield, own Dog Not Gone as well as Maine Stitching Specialties, which makes the vests, and a variety of other products.

The couple bought the Dane Street factory early in 2015 and opened there last March, moving the company from Kingfield, where it had outgrown its quarters. They’ve gone from 11 to 22 employees in the past year.

Swain said the Wal-Mart contract, which is a six-month market test, will eventually mean more jobs at the plant. But it’s hard to estimate how many jobs because the hire of stitchers and other production-related employees is based on orders, and that depends on all the company’s products.

The contract is a result of an open call Wal-Mart issued to find U.S. manufacturing companies with products it could sell in its stores.

The Wal-Mart contract is for the blaze orange Tick Repelling Safety Dog Vest, but the company also makes other vests in other colors and variations, complementary collars and leashes, similar products for horses, and plans to branch out soon into a line of human tick-repellent visibility wear.

Swain said the Wal-Mart contract is “testing the waters,” but the company hopes in the future to get its other products into a national market. The company’s products are already available at local stores such as Renys and L.L. Bean, as well as on Amazon.

A Friday news release announcing the contract says that “success in the market test will result in the company’s products being featured in more stores within the next six months.”

Julie Swain, Dog Not Gone’s CEO, said in the release: “Our products have always done well in Maine and New England. Large-scale national exposure is what we need to take our company to the next level. There is no faster path to national retail presence than Wal-Mart.”

Cindi Marsiglio, Wal-Mart vice president of U.S. Sourcing and Manufacturing, said in the release: “Our customers have told us that second to price, where products are made influences their purchase decisions. We are focused on buying great quality products that create jobs in communities across the U.S.”

The Tick Repelling Safety Dog Vest has a permanent coat of permethrin, which repels ticks and other big insects. It also has reflective strips to make animals more visible at night.

Maine Stitching Specialties, the manufacturing partner of Dog Not Gone Visibility Products and also owned by the Swains, makes the vests and the other safety products, as well as window treatments and decorative bedding for hotels, privacy curtains for health care and assisted-living clients nationwide, and other products.

Dog Not Gone began in Kingfield 10 years ago, making the safety vests originally designed for dogs, horses and other domestic animals as a way to keep animals from being mistaken for game.

The Swains bought the 45,000-square-foot Skowhegan building and about 100 pieces of stitching-related machinery last year with a mix of federal Community Development Block Grant money and private financing.


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