HOLIDAY 2021 - Page 7

From the moment that Millie Merrill created the first “ Turtle ’ s Neck ®” fleece neck warmer in the basement of the Yellow Turtle children ’ s clothing store in Stowe , Vermont , the winter apparel accessory business was never the same . Merrill ’ s ingenious invention freed skiers from the oft-encumbering nuisance of easily tangled scarves , allowing them to enjoy their sport with new levels of freedom and confidence . After Merrill officially founded Turtle Fur in 1982 , she partnered with the Malden Mills textile factory in Massachusetts in 1983 to create their trademark Original Turtle Fur ® fleece . At the time , Malden Mills served as the original manufacturers of Polartec ® fleece goods . In the years that followed , Merrill attended both regional and national trade shows , where she sold her soft and comfortable fleece neck warmers to a broad audience of retailers .

A vocal and energetic spokesperson , Millie forged deep and lasting connections with local and national retailers and distributors . Through the 1980s , Millie also built a dedicated independent sales force that helped grow Turtle Fur across the country . Building on the success of their original neck warmers , Turtle Fur soon expanded their product range to include The Hat ; a fleece watch cap beanie also made with their signature Original Turtle Fur ® fleece material . Millie Merrill ’ s husband , John Merrill , joined the business and became involved in the financial oversight of the operation . As an alumnus of the Harvard Business School , John ’ s keen understanding of market dynamics proved incredibly helpful as the business continued to grow . In the early 1990s , Turtle Fur broadened its market reach through a series of private label collaborations with large corporate sports brands such as Burton , Rossignol , and Titleist Golf . Turtle Fur then reached new levels of public visibility when they served as an official sponsor for the U . S . Olympic team at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics .
When Millie and John Merrill retired in 2000 , Turtle Fur was sold to entrepreneur and businessman Richard Sontag . Over the next two decades , Sontag ’ s thoughtful oversight helped to catapult the business to new levels of prosperity . Today , Turtle Fur has diversified its range of offerings to include over 1,000 different items available in thousands of outdoor and snowsport stores throughout the United States , Canada , and globally . In addition to neck warmers , Turtle Fur ’ s product line includes hats , headbands , balaclavas , gloves , mittens , tops , cold weather facemasks , baby blankets , and neck warmers for dogs .


Turtle Fur has evolved from a small Vermont company to an international brand by focusing on its core principles of sustainability , diversity , and giving . Vice-Presidents Colin Giblin and Meghan Ksiazek and a very tight “ knit ” team have been instrumental in moving the company forward . “ Turtle Fur is like a family ,” says Giblin ; “ we are a small group of loyal and dedicated employees , which creates a fantastic collaborative environment . The average tenure of a Turtle Fur employee is around 24 years . You don ’ t find that kind of workforce longevity very often . It creates a truly supportive environment and work culture . When you get to know your teammates on a deeper level , you start to really care about them as people . It changes how you go about your work and how you see the rest of the world . If you have healthy relationships , it allows you to make healthier and better decisions . We care about each other the same way we care about our customers , our products , and the world around us . We ’ re going to keep working hard to create quality products and uphold our values , and we ’ re excited to see what comes next .”
Just as Turtle Fur puts a great deal of effort into creating their products , they also go above and beyond to integrate sustainable practices into their business model . To that end , Turtle Fur has purchased renewable energy credits to offset the carbon footprint of their office in Morrisville , which is