Diane Bailey Designs at The Beach House
Saint Simons Island, Georgia
I love how our story begins. It all started with my daddy. In 1980 he decided to build a beach house for his family, but mainly for his grandchildren, my sons Chad and Brent. They were 6 and 2 at the time. Daddy loved pecky cypress, the whole inside was built with this special wood. The beach house has so much southern charm and it still stands on it’s original stilts 20 yards from the Atlantic ocean. Today, the beach house is a representation of how St. Simons Island used to be. Over the years the house has slowly been filled with cozy classic pieces that have been the backdrop of all of our memories. Back then and still today, it feels peaceful and calm. When you walk through the door life slows down.
I started The Bailey Boys, Inc. in 1987 after my youngest son, Brent started kindergarten. After lunching and shopping with friends for a while, I decided I needed to do something more productive and creative with my time…so my husband, unbeknownst to me, bought several industrial sewing machines and the equipment to go with it to start a small business. I’ve sewn all my life (my mother said I was trying to thread a needle at the age of 3). So, I guess he figured that was the direction I needed to go.
I traveled to Atlanta to find a sales representative…it was an eye-opening experience. The market was so big, impressive and seemed so out of my league. But, never the less I found a rep and The Bailey Boys was born. Nancy, my rep, encouraged me to make boy clothes since she felt that there was a definite need in the market place. Of course, that was what I felt I did best so I went to work on designs. The first season I developed the first reversible john john. I’d been making them for years …since Chad, my oldest son was a year old, and he was now 9. I had a great response and was over-whelmed at the orders. Since it was only my mother, one other lady and me doing the cutting, sewing, pattern grading, etc., we had full-time jobs. I didn’t realize then that I had thriving business on the horizon.
From its inception then until now, the business has progressively taken baby steps and grown a little each year. Both of our boys, Chad and Brent work with us…as well as my husband, Jim—who was the master-mind behind the whole business. Jim went to Baxley, Georgia in the fall of 1996 to buy some sewing machines from a blue jean plant that was downsizing. He came home and said we needed to buy the factory as it was already set up and running. We were at the time having a hard time getting people to sew for us—many of the sewing factories had gone overseas and there just weren’t many sewing machine operators around our area. So, after taking a trip to Baxley to see the closing factory (which was built in the 1950’s) I was awestruck by a hand-made heart pine cutting table that was actually built inside the factory—I turned to Jim and said, “Oh my!” Needless to say, we purchased the building and the Bailey Boys moved its sewing operation to Baxley, Georgia in early 1997. We not only had a family business on St. Simons, now we had a rather large family business in Baxley—which totaled around 80 people in Baxley and 10 on St. Simons.
Today we still have many of the original people that worked for us in 1997. I still marvel at how the fabric comes in on the loading dock at the back door, moves around the factory in a clock-wise direction and goes out the back door the same way it came in —but as finished garments!
When I started the business, I was designing, selecting fabrics and overseeing the actual construction of the garments and I still am doing the same things. Fortunately, I have more help now—with good folks working for us in Baxley and on St. Simons. We have a company store on St. Simons where we carry all of the styles and designs that we make. The Bailey Boys is currently carried by around 500 specialty stores through the country—mostly in the south and southeast. It has a very southern classic and traditional feel to it.
There are 5 lines that The Bailey Boys make. The first is “The Bailey Boys”—which is classic brother/sister appliquéd designs. Then we have “Bailey Boy Classics” which is still traditional but dressier. Bailey Boy Basics are exactly what the name says—Basics…turtlenecks, pants, john johns, jumpers and bubbles that coordinate with the other lines. “Bailey Babies” are sacs, smocking and bubbles—sold under The Bailey Boy label. Our newest line is “J. Bailey”—it is a traditional, preppy and classic line with button-down shirts(the Roscoe shirt), golf shirts(the Henry shirt), pants(the Champ pant) and shorts(the Pete shorts). There are also bow ties, ties, jackets, and sweater vests. The garments all have family names given to them.
I don’t think I ever stop looking at all things around me, and at all types of clothing, colors and design of anything. I can see something in the grocery store, whether it be a picture on a can or maybe some child in line at the store and my mind starts thinking how I can incorporate a design out of it. I scout out things—wherever I am or wherever I go. Design ideas are everywhere. I have a pad on my nightstand—ideas come at all times of the day and night. After I have an idea of something I want to make, I take my idea to our pattern maker, she creates it, we critique it and usually it becomes a garment we will use in the line. It’s a process that can take a day to several months. Twice a year (spring and fall) we create the 5 lines—and there are 30 groups just in Bailey Boys. It is quite an undertaking! I only hope and pray that my granddaughters—Liza and Kendall will be able to do my job one day. They’re both typical little girls with their own strong opinions—so I think I can rest easy along those lines!
We all feel very lucky and especially blessed to be able to work together—that we’ve made this family business successful—and that we can make other families happy by dressing their precious children in our clothes!