Theresa Bergeron, above, founder of Thermohair Inc.
‘I was told it would never work’
SOUTH MOUNTAIN — Over the last quarter century, Theresa Bergeron has spun herself a successful and unique business in North Dundas.
The South Mountain-area resident offers a popular line of super comfortable but hard-wearing socks produced from Angora goats — the only animal that produces mohair.
She sources the natural fibre from South Africa and arranges manufacturing in Toronto. The final product — Thermohair Inc. socks made with 75 percent mohair and 25 percent nylon — is sold online to customers all over North America and as far away as Sweden and Japan.
Thermohair socks were even on the feet of an American adventurer who circumnavigated Greenland by dog sled and sea kayak in 2000. The natural foot-odour-fighting material was no doubt appreciated by the musher.
Bergeron’s website notes that only one million pounds of the highest grade mohair is produced globally. It’s known as the “diamond fibre because it is very strong and rare. It is as soft as cashmere, yet wears out the stainless steel parts in the knitting machines.”
Her business today stands as one of the only textile operations left in a region once known for that largely-defunct industry.
“Mohair socks are made from the finer hair sheared from the goat kids,” she explains. “Mohair is durable, soft and warm, perfect for socks — for winter outdoor sports, construction, hiking, camping, fishing, farming, and for those suffering from cold feet due to disease.”
Below, a Thermohair Inc. Facebook post promoting the South Mountain-based company’s product for sale to Swedes.
Bergeron also produces an even finer version for spring and fall, for use with dress shoes. It’s also popular with cyclists and golfers.
“The ankle sport sock was introduced last year and there are plans to develop a work sock with Kevlar for steel toed work boots,” she says, adding, “The bestselling sock is still the original regular crew sock.”
She generated her first sales in 1992, slightly less than a decade after arriving in North Dundas with a few Angora goats and a Masters degree in nutrition from the University of Guelph. “I was raising the goats for mohair and wanted to make a finished product to increase revenue,” she explains.
Bergeron’s herd eventually grew to 160 goats at the County Rd. 3 farm.
Yes, she still has her own Angora goats, about 40 of them. But the fibre they produce is not destined for Thermohair socks anymore. “My own mohair, I just sell it,” she explains.
Coinciding with the departure of domestic textile producers to offshore locations, Angora goat herd numbers continue to dwindle in North America. Of the 33 pedigreed animals registered in Canada last year, “about half were mine,” she says, proudly highlighting the genetic legacy of a herd built up since 1983. “It’s really hard to think about giving them up and sending them to the sale barn,” she admits.
The socks are generally sold at $30 to $35 a pair in a retail environment.
Such is the popularity of Thermohair Inc. socks, the 67-year-old proprietor still has trouble keeping up with demand. A grandmother and the mother of four adult children, the local entrepreneur says her “greatest satisfaction” has come from seeing her idea turned into a business, “when I was told it would never work.”
While witnessing much change in her sector over the ensuing years, she also sees a common thread with her beginnings. “When I first started, it was my own goats on my own farm. The goats are still here, and I’m still selling socks,” Bergeron observes.
Below, video showing Thermohair Inc.’s mohair goat herd and their friendly guard dog.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the township’s 2019 Explore North Dundas Spring/Summer Resource Guide. The involved interviews took place in the first quarter of 2019.