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Former Division of the Knox Woolen Mill in Camden Acquired

Edward H. Best Company has been acquired by Windward Ventures LLC, a Maine-based investment group. Maine entrepreneurs John Karp of the Maine Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and David Erb, formerly of Tex-Tech Industries and presently at a major University, will work to expand and modernize the traditional textile production line which has been in continuous operation since 1864. 

Mr. Erb will be acting as President of Edward H. Best, with John Karp as CEO and John’s Wife Heidi Bishop as Treasurer.  Financing has been provided by Camden National Bank. “We are very appreciative of Camden National and our loan officer Mr. Chad Place,” Karp said, following a nine-month effort to enable the purchase of the company. Plans are to keep all employees and hire more, and to keep the company in place at its Thomaston location.  FAME also played a large role, providing significant loan guarantees.

The Edward H. Best company was originally located in Massachusetts and bought tubular felt woolen Jackets (sleeves) and belts made on looms located at the Knox Woolen Mill in Camden Maine for their customers around the world. The looms and equipment for this were purchased by Mr. John Rosseel were moved to Thomaston Maine in 1983 (when the non tubular felt business of the Knox Mill was sold out of state) to continue providing these products to the Edward H Best company.

Woolen Belts are used in many applications, especially in conveyor belting for food, polishing applications and covers for rollers in manufacturing machines.  The company, in its heyday, served the manufacturers of Televisions, polishing the back of glass TV screen tubes and supplied products from facilities in Thomaston and Waldoboro Maine. 

David Erb has a long career in technical felts and the composites industry with particular expertise in tubular felt manufacturing.  He also enjoyed a long friendship with the former owner John Rosseel. John Karp has extensive experience in the acquisition and management of businesses in Maine, including startups and business turnarounds such as Bourgeois Guitars and co-founding Syris Scientific with Enercon Technologies.  Syris was a spinout of Harvard Medical School, developing and marketing medical devices.  John will continue his part-time work with the Maine MEP and the Maine Technology Institute (MTI) serving manufacturers and David will also continue hias work in addition to running the company with Vice President and plant manager Shirley Hocking.

Camden Attorney Jack Sanford, counsel to Mr. Rosseel’s family, spoke with John Karp after Mr. Rosseel's passing, knowing John’s part time work with Maine MEP and MTI. John recalls the conversation and states:

“I started chuckling as Jack Sanford described the opportunity,” Karp said, “Because I knew David Erb and his expertise, as we had been friends for 20 years.  I told him “I’ve got THE guy for a partner in this company Jack!”  only learning later that David knew the company and John Rosseel well.

“We are excited to provide opportunities for students to have real world experiences in the operations of the Textile Industry,” said Erb who currently manages programs at major materials research Center near Bangor.

The current management of the company will remain in the hands of an extraordinary woman, Shirley Hocking, managing the day-to-day operations as she has done for over 30 years. She will remain for the next year, allowing the hiring and training of an on-site manager.  Shirley, hired as an Administrative Assistant in 1987, progressed to become the company Vice President and manager while raising two children.  “She has done an extraordinary job growing and managing this business,” said Erb and Karp.

Future plans are to expand into numerous types of technical materials and possibly expand into products for applications in aerospace and composites.

The Knox Woolen Mills were founded in 1864, making this division one of the longest operating manufacturers in the state of Maine. For more details, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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