1920 - 1940
William never lost his entrepreneurial spirit or his appetite for risk, and after cobbling together his savings and a bit of borrowed money; he left Jantzen and formed Dehen Knitting Company in 1920.
Business boomed. The company outgrew its shop, and moved into a new facility in what was then the eastern edge of Portland at Southeast 86th and Stark Street (in present day Montavilla). The company provided a steady income, and William and Celia were able to provide a great life for their three young children. Then the depression hit.
The market crash meant that most of Dehen’s customers, who paid with credit, were unable to pay their bills. The bank foreclosed on the factory, but William was undeterred, paying a visit to his padlocked mill in the dead of night. When the bank officers visited the property the next day, they found that the knitting equipment had disappeared.
If they visited the Dehen’s home, they might have noticed a hole in the kitchen floor, from which protruded the top of a particularly tall knitting machine. Operations never ceased; the knitting just happened in the basement of their home, and William peddled his sweaters door to door, sometimes taking food as payment.
By 1936, business was back on track with orders for school sweaters and work apparel piling up. A retail store was opened on 10th and Yamhill in downtown Portland, and the Dehen kids, led by their youngest sibling Bill, began to learn the trade from their father.