The skills Kolb brought to ADO in 1979 were earned through 25 years in textile machine sales and design, installation, turn-key plant planning and personnel training. His expertise took him to textile mills throughout Europe, the Near East, Far East, Egypt, Russia, Canada and Mexico. He helped innovate and refine ADO's unique yarn preparation, weaving, finishing and dyeing technologies that guarantee fabric softness, washability, dimensional stability and colorfastness.
"As much as I enjoy developing Bear Hollow Nature Preserve," Kolb says, "I was sad to leave my valued associates at the mill. And I miss my contacts with customers and attendees at my trade show seminars. Without such loyal friends, ADO could not have attained its leadership position in our exciting industry."
Kolb was selected by Hubert Wulf, ADO's founder and owner, to establish and manage the company's only non-European production facility. The U.S. facility was to provide North American custom designers with the same seamless polyester window treatment fabrics ADO had made popular throughout Europe. Wulf was certain the American market had potential, for many designers were ordering fabrics from ADO in Germany.
South Carolina was selected as the ideal site because of the pool of experienced textile talent available there. Kolb was the logical choice to head the new enterprise. He was living in South Carolina. He was a graduate engineer experienced in site selection, purchasing, machine design, installation and turn-key plant planning. He was fluent in several languages and adept in selecting and training technicians to work with the new polyester fibers and 10-foot-wide weaving machines.
But to establish ADO, Kolb had to use all his acquired skills and invent creative ways to solve unexpected problems. Starting with seamless voile, Kolb added new weave designs as fashion changes demanded and soon was offering the growing American market a variety of sheers, laces, cotton-blend lining fabric, soft-sheen opaque satins, moires and linen-look fabrics in dozens of colors.
Responding to the requests of many designers working in places where skilled fabrication talent was not available, Kolb helped set up ADO's workroom, now one of the largest in the United States. As sales boomed, he expanded the capacity of the original brick building until it could hold no more looms, dye beams, tenter frames or finishing equipment. He then supervised the acquisition and clearing of adjacent land and the erection of a 72,000-square-foot wing. Upon its completion, Kolb installed 12 high-speed Picanol air jet weaving machines capable of nearly tripling the production of the old projectile looms while allowing the company to maintain its competitive pricing policy and high quality standards.
Several years ago, through Kolb's efforts, ADO became certified as a licensed applicator of flame retardant finishes that meet all U.S. codes. And in their new wing, ADO has installed the first wide-fabric transfer printing calender in the country.
As more mill processes were added, Kolb hired and trained technicians who could master the new skills. "Most Southern operators had handled only cotton goods and narrow looms," Kolb says. "It was amazing how quickly they adapted. But they were skilled, well-motivated and ambitious. They made my job a pleasure," he adds.
The study of color science, especially the way varieties of light influence human color perception, has always intrigued Kolb. He devised creative ways to evaluate and match colors in the mill's dye lab and equipped it to display fabrics under a variety of fluorescent and incandescent light sources.
Kolb realized that designers were faced with critical color-matching challenges daily. They would match a sheer to an opaque valance or bedspread in the showroom, only to find the colors clashed when seen in the client's setting.
Kolb developed an entertaining and practical hands-on color-matching demonstration that quickly became a popular seminar at industry trade shows. Attendees were asked to practice matching fabrics of varying weaves inside different portable light boxes. Soon they began bringing their own fabric swatches. From these seminars, designers saw the wisdom of testing colors under both natural and artificial lighting in the places they will be seen by consumers.
Since retiring from ADO at the end of December 1996, Kolb has devoted his creativity and vigorous physical energy to the development of Bear Hollow Nature Preserve. He says, "It's a labor of love. I have been determined to maintain and enhance the natural beauty of the forest site along the Tyger River. At the same time, I am making the preserve pleasant and convenient for guests. The cottages are planned for housekeeping ease and convenience and are equipped with modern bathrooms and kitchens, laundry facilities, and year-round comfort. When completed, the preserve may give me a chance to renew old friendships from the places I have visited and worked since my boyhood in Germany. I can make good use of my language skills while keeping informed about happenings around the world."
Kolb finds the outdoor chores physically challenging. But the work is healthful, creative and rewarding. He is replacing weeds, underbrush and fallen limbs with new or transplanted dogwoods, azaleas, laurels and thousands of daffodils, tulips and shade-loving ground cover. Seven miles of scenic walking trails are interrupted only by broad benches providing resting places for guests.