Published 12:00 am Friday, February 1, 2013
SALISBURY — Women employees at the Thread Shed affectionately called him “Big L.”
The name fit Arnold D. Loflin, who died Tuesday. He left big impressions.
Son and longtime business partner Dave Loflin says his father was loving, caring and sharing. But beyond that, Arnold Loflin was driven — a savvy businessman who had teamed with his son, other family members and loyal employees to build one of downtown’s strongest anchors, Thread Shed.
“He was such a worker,” Dave Loflin says.
When other businesses were deserting the downtown for places such as the new Salisbury Mall in 1986, the Loflins dug in, finding ways to evolve and survive.
Today, the clothing store in the historic Bell Block Building at 133 S. Main St. is bigger than ever, specializing in uniforms for school children, law enforcement, firefighters, emergency responders and medical personnel.
Thread Shed also has carved out a niche for work clothes, tuxedo rentals, custom embroidery and even has a license to special order firearms for officers and sports enthusiasts.
The business has made a lot of changes since starting out as a jeans store, when Dave was only 20 years old.
Arnold and Dave Loflin opened Thread Shed on the day of the Holiday Caravan parade in 1975. Arnold Loflin’s last day in the store was exactly 37 years later, on parade day 2012.
In between, he was a fixture at Thread Shed.
One of Big L’s favorite sayings was, “You get the job done by working.”
Almost three years ago, Arnold Loflin learned he had lung cancer. He endured 40 radiation treatments and chemotherapy, which helped to put the disease into remission.
He returned to work as usual, even as he passed his 80th birthday.
“One of his proudest things was that he was still working at 83,” Dave says.
But before Thanksgiving, illness set in for Arnold Loflin, and by Dec. 1 he was battling pneumonia.
His recovery required two weeks in the hospital and three weeks at the Lutheran Home to regain his strength, but then he learned his lung cancer had returned.
Dave Loflin says his father, Dave’s sister Bonnie Earnhardt and a close friend visited the oncologist for the last time 11 days before Arnold’s death. The doctor said Arnold had weeks, maybe a few months to live.
As they left the office, Arnold Loflin broke the silence.
“Let’s go to Richard’s and have lunch,” he said.
There, in a nutshell, was his dad, Dave says.
Arnold and Evelyn Loflin formed quite a partnership themselves.
They married in their late teens by riding with friends to York, S.C. Dave says his parents had only $6 between them when they made the trip.
“They set out to make a life, and they sure did,” the son adds. “They worked so hard, but so happily.”
The couple were married almost 62 years before Evelyn’s death a few years back.
Dave Loflin laughs, telling the story of his parents as a young couple, when they finally were able to afford a car. Prior to the purchase, they relied on the bus or walked to get into town.
One day Evelyn drove herself and Bonnie, then a toddler, into the business district to do some shopping. They traveled home by bus.
When Arnold entered the house that evening, he asked where the car was. Evelyn had forgotten they had a car and left it parked downtown.
As a boy and into adulthood, friends and family also called Arnold “Nonnie,” though the origins of that nickname are not clear. By the time he was 14, Arnold already was working a bread route.
For 20 years, he held a position with Cartex Mills. Meanwhile, Evelyn graduated from cosmetology school and became a beautician.
Without any experience in retail, Arnold Loflin opened a wig shop at 113 E. Fisher St. With Charles Ketner as a partner, the Loflins also launched Central State Beauty College, where Evelyn taught cosmetology.
The Loflins eventually built Loflin Center off Arlington Street, and the center included the beauty college, Evelyn’s hair salon and a new Loflin’s Uniform Shop.
When Evelyn turned 60 and retired, the couple sold Loflin Center.
Arnold Loflin always kept going. By 1975, when he was 47, he and Dave opened the denim store where the wig shop had been.
Thread Shed stayed there for two-and-half years before moving to the South Main Street spot where today’s Blue Vine is located.
By 1987, Thread Shed moved once more — this time to the Bell Block Building at the corner of South Main and East Fisher streets. The Loflins initially leased the building from Historic Salisbury Foundation but bought it outright about 20 years ago.
“We never wanted to leave downtown,” Dave Loflin says.
Thread Shed gained a reputation early on as the best source for denim in the region. It evolved into a mini department store, focusing on quality sportswear.
Then came the emphasis on uniforms.
“They were very smart about that,” says Marcia Smith, the store manager, who has worked for Thread Shed for 34 years.
Dave Loflin credits Smith with being an invaluable player in the store’s growth and success.
She describes the Arnold Loflin she knew as an accomplished, self-taught businessman with a mind for financial matters. He also was great with customers, she says.
“He was always willing to adapt,” Dave Loflin adds.
In recent years when he wasn’t at the store, Arnold Loflin spent time at his house at Ocean Isle, where he delighted in rocking or swinging on the porch.
He also enjoyed traveling with Christian Tours. Arnold is survived by four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Dave Loflin says his dad carried a reasonable perspective on their business, even though the pressures can be considerable.
When they first started the store, the men took out a $20,000 loan from Security Bank. Ever since that day, Arnold Loflin told his son, “The most we can lose is $20,000 and the time we put in. Everything else is a working gain.”
As always, the emphasis was on working.
“He’s the best man I’ve ever known,” Dave says.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or firstname.lastname@example.org.