Executive editor S. C. Gwynne on writing about the comeback of the Nocona Athletic Goods Company.
texasmonthly.com: What was the most interesting thing you discovered while working on this assignment?
S. C. Gwynne: The biggest surprise was finding out that the company was in the middle of a huge turnaround at the time of the fire—a story that was almost entirely eclipsed by news of the fire.
texasmonthly.com: Did they ever find out what started the fire that caused the original factory to burn?
SG: There was some sort of electrical problem that ignited something in the shipping department.
texasmonthly.com: You’re coming off of writing a lengthy feature on coal use in Texas. Was it fun to write a more uplifting story?
SG: Well, it was fun to write a simpler story. The coal story was a complex piece of public policy and environmental science that took me several months to report. By comparison, this story was quick and easy.
texasmonthly.com: Are you a big baseball fan? Did you ever own a Nokona glove?
SG: I am a moderate baseball fan. My daughter plays fast-pitch softball on a very good team. I am pitching coach for the team and spend a good deal of time on softball. I have used the $275 Nokona buffalo catcher’s mitt I refer to in the story. It is an amazing piece of equipment.
texasmonthly.com: How long did you work on this piece?
SG: About two weeks.
texasmonthly.com: What was your favorite thing about this story?
SG: Looking at their great museum and listening to the Storeys talk about the various old pieces of sports equipment.
texasmonthly.com: What was the most challenging part?
SG: There was nothing really challenging or difficult about the story. One of the nights I was there I got the “combo” plate at the local Mexican food restaurant—an extremely large (and very good) plate of food. Getting through that was not easy, but somehow I managed to do it.
texasmonthly.com: What do you think the moral of the story is here? Be stubborn and it will all work out?
SG: No. The moral is: Be stubborn but, ultimately, be flexible, and it will all work out. The Storeys’ stubbornness is what kept the jobs in Nocona. But what will save the company is their willingness to adapt to the realities of the new market.
texasmonthly.com: What do you think will happen to the Nocona factory now? Will it ever return to being the huge glove manufacturer it was sixty years ago?
SG: I think it will grow and prosper. It will never be a manufacturer on the level of Mizuno or Wilson or Rawlings, nor does it want to be.