Spongex employee Barbara Davis removes the flash from a product called My Place Mat by Soft Gear on Wednesday at the plant in Tarboro.
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Spongex employee Barbara Davis removes the flash from a product called My Place Mat by Soft Gear on Wednesday at the plant in Tarboro.

Plant produces variety of foam products

By John Henderson

Staff Writer

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The Spongex plant in Tarboro manufactures foam products that are sold to companies all over the country – everything from aquatic floats to marina and fishing bouys.

Some of the products that plant produces and used by the companies themselves. Others are sold by the company to retail outlets.

Spongex produces custom-design 3-D molded thermoplastic elastomer products such loungers, luxury noodle-shaped floats, exercise equipment, commercial fishing floats, swim training accessories, pool and spa cushions and commercial floats and buoys.

The company is contracted to design and develop custom products for companies using its trademarked “Aqua Cell” foam technology.

“Our exclusive Aqua Cell foam technology, is the secret to our success,” the company’s website states. “Made only in the U.S.A., this exclusive formulation and custom molding process produces the world’s best quality closed-cell foam. Aqua Cell technology sets the standard in reliability, adaptability and attractiveness. The Aqua Cell technology also provides superior performance in the areas of buoyancy, durability, cushioning, insulative properties, and ease of cleaning.”

Swimways, a Virginia Beach-based company that manufactures similar recreational water products purchased Spongex last month from the company that owned the division, Nomaco Inc.

David Arias, president of Swimways, said in a recent interview with the Rocky Mount Telegram that his company is excited to be able to add Spongex products to the Swimways portfolio.

“We are well under way in the process of presenting the line to our retail partners, which include Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club and thousands of independent dealer partners throughout the United States,” he said.

The addition of Spongex products to the Swimways portfolio will enhance the company’s collection of pool floats, Arias said.

“We are very excited to welcome the team from Spongex to the Swimways family,” Arias said. “We anticipate that this excitement will resonate with our retailers, as well as consumers, as we gear up to bring innovation to the high performance Aqua Cell manufacturing technology.”

The plant manager Jim Welch said Spongex does not sell retail.

“We sell direct to retailers,” he said. “We don’t sell directly to consumers.”

Q: What products or services do you provide?

A: Welch: We’re a manufacturer of custom-molded closed cell foam. And we sell products in industiral fishing aquatic liesure and some custom molded products that we sell to our original equpment manufacturer partners. We are a custom manufacter for companies. We typically sell business to business in our original equipment manufacturer market.

We make large pool floats. We do our version of a noodle, so we make kind of a floatie for the pool, kind of like the noodle only our version its more custom molded. It’s a higher-end product. And then we have products for industiral fishing that is used in the lobster and crab fishing (industries) in the Northeast and the Northwest of the country, so all of the pictures of a marina where have all the bouys kind of sitting there those are all generally ours.

Q: Who are your key leaders?

A: Plant manager Jim Welch, vice president of operations Ed Hayes.

Q: How many people do you employ?

A: 37.

Q: What is your business philosophy?

A: Making free time more fun through innovation. That’s our mission. And it’s a company rich in traditional values, and respect for the quality and integrity of its products and services.

Q: What makes your business unique?

A: A combination of our molding capacity and material makes us unique, so from our ability to custom mold products and also our technology in making the foam itself.

We help develop custom products we help design. We take that basically from cradle to grave, so when a company has an idea of a type of foam product they would like they talk to us we get involved with their engineers and design products to meet their market needs.

Q: How has your business grown?

A: Spongex Marketing Director Monica Jones: Swimways has always focused on growth, and since we bought Spongex in early January we really hahve been analysing their customers, meeting with their customers with the intention of growing. We certainly are pitching new customers all the time, and we’ve already begun that. We don’t have any sales results to date, but I know that they will start coming in when we get orders beginning this summer.

Q: What kind of growth do you expect in the coming years?

A: Jones: For the first year we literally are just looking to meet the needs of our existing customer base. Swimways has distribution in over 20,000 storefronts, so our goal is to bring Spongex items, the Aqua Cell technology items, to more customers, and we are lookoing to a very legitimate growth of the business.