On this day in 1995, businessman Aaron Feuerstein (1925-) was at Boston's Cafe Budapest restaurant celebrating his 70th birthday with family and friends. The owner of Malden Mills had much to celebrate: annual sales for his Polartec fleece-like synthetic product had hit $400 million.
When he returned home from dinner, he received devastating news: fire had destroyed his 600,000 square foot factory in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
"This was not a tragedy of money," he observed. "It was that everything I wanted to accomplish in business was burning down in front of my eyes. It was dying there in front of me."
Rather than give up, the next day feisty Feuerstein pledged he would rebuild the mill and his employees would continue to be paid in full, with benefits, including their traditional $275 Christmas bonus.
"It would have been unconscionable to put 3,000 people on the streets and deliver a deathblow to the cities of Lawrence and Methuen," he said.
Faced with untold challenges, he persevered. The insurance company held up payment. He had to borrow to pay bills and meet payroll.
How did he survive? "Have a determination that is strong enough to move walls," he said.
At the dedication of the new mill 21 months later, Feuerstein said, "I thank you, majestic God of the universe, for restoring to Malden Mills and its employees, our life and soul."
In retrospect, he said of his accomplishment, "I created the spark, the hope, the will to overcome and salvage a situation that seemed impossible. I was able to influence others to participate in that dream."
Be Good. Do Good.