By James Sutherland
As I remember my grandfather, everything Charlie Sutherland Sr. did was done with a purpose in mind and a keen eye on the future. But I’ll bet he had no idea what would happen when he bought that old fireman’s dance hall in his hometown so he could make knitting machine oils.
In the black & white photo, he’s staring at that building on North First Avenue in Mayodan, N.C. I can just see his wheels turning. And they kept turning from 1976 until he died in 1994. Charlie Sr. left a legacy of dedication to excellence with a personal touch.
Now Charlie Sr., aka “Grandpop”, is the “Charlie” of Charlie’s Professional cleaners, a sort of homage to the man with the plan. But it was his son, Charlie Jr. — my dad — who actually developed the products: first the oils and then the cleaner that would come to be known as Charlie’s Soap. On his wife Jane’s (my mom) birthday in 1983, Dad quit his job with one of the big textile corporations nearby and took over the small company that needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. That old firefighters’ dance hall turned oil plant changes again, this time to make soap!
Charlie Jr. rebuilt the company the way most others do: knocking on doors, watching his nickels and a hoping for a lot of luck. People were finding out about this cleaning product and starting to ask where they could pick up some of “Charlie’s soap.” Dad was selling it as an industrial cleaner for machines and textile quality control. But employees at those factories were taking it home and using for literally everything from false teeth to diesel engines.
By 2002, my brothers and I started the long-overdue process of properly branding this nameless industrial cleaner as “Charlie’s Soap.” Once again, that little dance hall transformed. Where once was a mess of pipes and tubs now stands a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility producing product for 50 states and as many countries. We like to attribute it to our grandparents’ ideals, Dad’s guts and our own dreams.
Now it’s my turn to develop the Charlie’s Professional product brand. It’s like taking Grandpop’s vision full circle: from industrial to consumer and back. Charlie’s Professional, like its predecessor, stands for effective cleaning at a reasonable cost that is safe for the world in which we live.