In Memoriam: Michael Gallagher

Posted by Stefanie Goodwin Ritter on

We appreciate your support during this difficult year and have an important update to share with you in the form of an open letter from Cory Robert, a dear friend of Mike's.

Mike Gallagher

11.18.2020

It is with immense heartache that I announce the passing of Michael W. Gallagher. Though Mike was new as a company owner presence to the fiber industry, he is remembered by many as the smiling face and positive demeanor that enjoyed making and selling specialized fiber equipment. He was a hustler (his words, not mine), whose dreams and goals had no ceiling, only the next step forward.

Mike's beginning was as an artist. When I met Mike in 2009, he was managing the North Carolina State University wood shop, designing and making furniture, and working as a bartender. Three years later, he bought his first property outside of Raleigh that had both a rental house and an old general store he would call his shop. He rented the house to me while I attended graduate school, covering the mortgage for both properties (Mike could always find a deal). On that corner is where Mike's entry into the fiber world began. One day an older gentleman saw the "Atreeom Custom Furniture" sign outside, and came in to ask if Mike was interested in making some production parts. These "parts" were the Nancy's Knit Knack's Heavy Duty Ball Winder. From 2013 to present, Mike made all of the NKK Ball Winders on the market. Mike and I enjoyed many late night camp fires on that property. On one such occasion, Mike, my wife Taylor, and myself were dreaming of "One Day" when we would own a fiber equipment company. At the time, I was in school, Taylor was working and teaching at a local yarn store, and Mike was just getting started making the ball winders. That night we decided around the fire that when we owned a company, we would name it Wooley Chicken. This name being in honor of the Frizzle/Polish Tophat rooster that my wife and I had in our backyard coop.

Time passed and we occasionally joked about Wooley Chicken off and on, until 5 years later when Mike came over and said "I'm thinking of buying a drum carder business, and I'm going to run it under Wooley Chicken." This is what led to Mike's first company purchase of Strauch Fiber Co. Soon after, he closed on purchasing Nancy's Knit Knacks. Without missing a beat on his path forward, Mike closed on purchasing Heavenly Handspinning this past July. In less than two years, he went from making ballwinders, to owning three esteemed companies in the fiber market. Mike truly was a phenomenal example of someone who could make things happen.

Two days after closing on Heavenly Handspinning, less than a month before his 37th birthday, Mike was diagnosed with cancer. This disease came on extremely aggressive. Ultimately, 3 months later, it claimed his life.

I want followers to understand the story of Mike, to know that he may have been a new face as an owner of a fiber industry company, but his work has touched the hands of thousands. His craftsmanship is displayed across the globe in the products he manufactured. His dreams had no limit, and starting with nothing he was able to build a company of such potential. In Mike's passing, all of his possessions now fall into the ownership of a Trust, to which his 5 year old daughter is the beneficiary. I, along with my wife Taylor, will run the companies as Trustee. 

I understand that during Mike's sickness, these businesses suffered. I understand the frustration and confusion of neglected customers, and delayed orders. I won't spend time apologizing for the past, rather I want to speak with actions about how these companies are moving forward. Over the last two weeks, I have overhauled production, and set a working schedule to get all backlogged orders shipped out by the end of November. We are forever grateful to have an outpouring of support from the original owners of these companies. Otto and Joanne Strauch, Robert Schroyer, and Richard Ford have all been incredible resources in helping us fill gaps, and gain a hold of the fine details that make each of the companies' products great. Our new Fulfilment Manager, Lauren Wright, is taking on the charge of ensuring we stay on schedule, and ship on time. Her years of experience in the fiber industry gives me confidence in her ability to act as the voice of the customer, ensuring quality is maintained in every product before shipping. She will also be there to answer any phone calls weekdays between the hours of 10am to 4pm. Taylor is diving in to customer service via email and order entry, and I will be overseeing all business operations. Mike truly was fortunate to already have a wonderful group of employees in place. Four people who took on more and more while he was sick. I am extremely thankful to already have this team in place, and am aligning everyone's efforts to ensure that we get from a backlog, to stocked shelves as soon as possible. We will have some parts shortages and bumps in the road as everything is transitioned, but we are all working to make sure any product shortage is but a quick turn of the page as we enter into this new chapter.

We are going to help realize Mike's vision for these companies, and honor his legacy by proudly working as Wooley Chicken to provide the market with all of these fabulous products. We will continue to maintain the individual companies for their product lines and marketing. A customer will still purchase a Strauch Drum Carder, a Nancy's Knit Knacks Heavy Duty Ball Winder, a Heavenly Handspinning E-Spinner. The only difference you may notice is that the websites have the same contact phone number, and your call be met with "This is Wooley Chicken: Home of Strauch Fiber Equipment, Nancy's Knit Knacks, and Heavenly Handspinning. How may I help you?" 

Mike will be forever missed, but I am excited to support my best friend in helping realize his dream of operating these businesses with outstanding quality, great customer service, and an eye forever focused on growing in the future. 

Regards,

Cory Robert


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4 comments

  • Thank you to the crew and to Cory for continuing on mikes vision and still produce products for his companies! What a shock! I have used and sold nancys knit knacks for over 10 years.i was delighted when mike purchased it because the legacy would continue . now with this tragic loss cory and the staff are carrying the company forward and i am moved by your sincere integrity in this difficult transition. Sending appreciation and support and patient as you wind the way forward for mikes daughter as well.
    Jill sanders saorisantacruz

    Jill sanders on
  • I am so very sorry for your loss. I spoke to Mike on the phone last year to order ball winders to sell for the holidays. I still remember the upbeat positive voice. Mike was so kind and thoughtful. Thank you for carrying on with this same spirit. Blessings, Cynthia

    Cynthia on
  • So sorry to hear of your loss. Glad to hear NKK will still be up and running. The young daughter is lucky to have such a loyal trustee operating on her behalf.

    Louann on
  • So sorry to hear of your loss. Glad to hear NKK will still be up and running. The young daughter is lucky to have such a loyal trustee operating on her behalf.

    Louann on

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