What do you do?
Sheffield Bronze’s Founder: from Printer to Paint-Powder Distributor, Car Salesman, Auto Lessor, and finally Paint Manufacturer by 1927
Mel Hart, president of Sheffield Bronze Paint Corp., 17814 S. Waterloo Rd., Cleveland, is a self-made man with captivating stories to tell about the history of Cleveland and of his family, especially his grandfather, Abe Gross, the founder of Sheffield Bronze.
Stamco Industries Inc., 26650 Lakeland Blvd., Euclid, Ohio, was started by William Sopko in 1983 when he bought the assets and building from another stamping company that closed in 1982. He chose to locate in Euclid, Ohio, because, “The City of Euclid is friendly towards manufacturing. In the 34 years that we have been located in Euclid, Stamco has made three or four plant expansions, and the city was very supportive of these activities.”
According to the American Wind Energy Association, “With 60,009 megawatts of wind power capacity installed as of the end of 2012 and more than 13,131 megawatts currently under construction in the U.S., companies large and small see opportunities for expanding into the wind energy market.” To develop innovations that can be approved for use, the industry needs to test and demonstrate products on working turbines.
The Wind Energy Research and Commercialization (WERC) Center at Case Western Reserve University partners with industrial partners Cleveland Electric Laboratories, Lubrizol, Parker Hannifin, Azure Energy, Rockwell Automation, Swiger Coil Systems and William Sopko & Sons. These organizations provided $3 million in funding. Since the projects inception, Sherwin-Williams and Northern Power Systems have joined to facilitate industry growth in the wind energy product market.
The center is comprised of three wind turbines as part of the $3-million Ohio Department of Development Third Frontier Wright Project. Two of the three turbines are located in Euclid, Ohio, on the campus of William Sopko & Sons. The largest turbine rises 230 feet and generates 1 megawatt that provides power to adjacent Stamco Industries. The intermediate-sized turbine powers Sopko & Sons, while the third and smallest is on CWRU’s campus and powers The Veale Convocation, Athletic and Recreation Center with more than 55,000 killowatts or 5 percent of what the center uses. A large turbine can produce 5 megawatts, enough to power more than 1,400 homes per year.
According to David Matthiesen, WERC faculty director, “The project combines CWRU engineering expertise with funded facilities to provide platforms for the development of wind power supply chain products and long-term educational and training opportunities. In addition to the research data being gathered, the turbines provide energy to nearby buildings.” The manufacturers involved incur no installation, maintenance or disposal costs.
From 1993-2005, I worked for a construction trade newspaper with Monica Potter’s Aunt Sue. I heard office tales about her stunning niece who was doing catalog modeling and commercials and even got to meet her once at some company event or other. I also crossed paths with Monica’s Uncle Bill of Brokaw Inc., an advertising agency, since I had begun my career in advertising.
Fast forward to October 2016 when I heard about Monica’s newest TV venture, “Welcome Back Potter,” a reality TV show on HGTV in which Monica, her mother and her sister work to renovate their family home in the North Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland, which is right around the corner from my office at HGR Industrial Surplus. I decided to send her a message on Facebook to see about an interview. I figured, “What do I have to lose?” A few days later I got a response basically saying, “Yes.” I messaged her the questions. I got a message back with a phone number. After some phone tag and texts, we chatted for almost an hour. Who knew that she cares so much about manufacturing and a skilled workforce, and is actually doing something about it?
Kerr Lakeside Inc., 26841 Tungsten Blvd., Euclid Ohio, was started in 1945 by Charles L. Kerr. He then organized Krafline Industries for the manufacture of a special military fastener. Once World War II ended, the company discontinued operations until 1947, when the company was renamed C.L. Kerr Industries. It regularly bought and sold products from another Cleveland company, Lakeside Machine Products Company, which led to a merger in 1958. The new company was named Kerr Lakeside Industries.
William Sopko and Sons Co., located at 26500 Lakeland Blvd., Euclid, Ohio, was started in 1952 in the basement of current owner Bill Sopko Sr.’s parents’ home on East 267th Street. His dad, also Bill, worked in the Maintenance Department at Tapco (now TRW) after returning home from serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Prior to the war, he worked at Ohio Ball Bearing Company (now Applied Technologies) in the Spindle Repair Department.
Cleveland historically has been a town of entrepreneurs, startups and family businesses, especially in the manufacturing and industrial sector. In this column, each month we continue the manufacturing conversation, because manufacturing is what this town was built on, and manufacturing continues to sustain it.
Another company right in your backyard that you probably are not familiar with is Euclid Heat Treating. Heat treaters harden, test and package metal parts that have been stamped, machined, cast or forged. It was started in 1946 by John J. Vanas, a metallurgical engineer and graduate of Case School of Applied Science. . He grew up in Euclid, on E.222nd Street, and in 1945, he started his business in the garage behind his home. Originally called The Engineered Heat Treating Company or “THETCO,” the primary focus was to service the growing tool-and-die manufacturing in the area.
Many of us have flown in an airplane or had an MRI. Little did we know that many of the parts on planes and in medical equipment are sandblasted, washed, primed, painted, coated and sealed in Euclid, Ohio, at Painting Technology, Inc., 21641 Tungsten Road. The business passed to President Mary Lou Ambrose in 1990 as part of a divorce settlement. It still is owned by her and will pass to her daughter, Vice President Denise DeGaetano.
In the heart of the Collinwood neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, I was sitting on a sofa in Twelve Literary and Performance Arts Incubator chatting with Poet Daniel Gray-Kontar about manufacturing and poetry. In our conversation, I brought up the poetic words of Erin O’Brien, editor of Fresh Water Cleveland, from her blog post “Tears and steel:”
Can you guess what Hose Master makes? Yup. Hose! But not of the garden variety. Hose Master manufactures ¼-inch to 20-inch-in-diameter metal hoses with expansion joints to transport liquids and gasses for industrial applications where rubber hose won’t work because the environment is too hot (think, steel mill), too cold, or where there is a concern that something could permeate the hose (think, chemical plants and refineries), such as in the transport of chlorine. As consumers, we have encountered their hoses in three places: the metal hose that connected the receiver to the box in a pay-phone booth in the good old days, the hose on a handheld showerhead and the hose that we can’t see beneath the dispenser at a gas station, which pumps the gas up from the underground tank.
Ironhawk Industrial is a manufacturer and distributor of high-tech snow removal products made in The United States. The company came to Euclid in 2012 and has enjoyed a great relationship with the city and the local business community. After the company started in late 2010, the owners looked for a location that provided expandable space, access to major interstate shipping routes and the right business environment.
Mitch Opalich, president of Indelco Custom Products, Inc., is the third generation of Opaliches to steer the business that has been in existence since 1965. The company originally was founded by Opalich’s father, George, and grandfather, Stephen, both engineers, as Cleveland Plastic Fabricators & Suppliers, Inc., when they were asked by a national manufacturing customer of their metalworking company to fabricate and machine plastics.
Since the family lived in Collinwood and Richmond Heights, Opalich says, “It made sense to locate the business in Euclid due to its proximity to a high concentration of manufacturing and OEM companies,” and it has remained here even though the Opaliches sold the business to their employees in the early 1970s. In 1994, Mitch Opalich bought the business back after finishing graduate school and working in the financial industry. He sold the company in 2008 to a Minneapolis-based plastics distributor, and the name changed to Indelco in 2014. Though he no longer owns the company, he remains president, and the company remains family owned by the Dore brothers. Opalich sold the business to leverage the buying power, infrastructure and capital of the third-largest player in the industry. He met the owners through his membership in the International Association of Plastics Distribution. Indelco Cleveland currently has more than 250 customers, 50 percent of which are in Northeast Ohio.
Dan T. Moore, CEO and chairman of Dan T. Moore Co. that holds 19 companies, is an ageless entrepreneur and inventor who is full of ideas and vitality. He skis and motorcycles the world, which you can read about on his blog; starts successful business after business; holds about 30 patents; and currently is hobbling about on crutches and in a cast after having bones in his ankle fused from a ski accident. His plans? To ski again! And, to continue to innovate and create successful startup companies in Collinwood.
His Cleveland Industrial Innovation Center (CiiC) at 17000 St. Clair Avenue, a former airport used by Curtiss Wright of Wright Brothers’ fame, houses nine established and startup manufacturing companies that employ approximately 350 people: Team Wendy, Soundwich, CiiC, Gem Tool, Ecowise, Metal Matrix Innovations, Rooftop Green, NatGasCar and Petfiber. The property also has available tenant space that Moore markets to encourage minority business enterprises.
While it’s easy to focus on Team Wendy, his original company which manufactures military helmets that stop high-velocity bullets for militaries and special forces around the world and which got its start as a ski-helmet manufacturer in 1997 at the intersection of Coit Road and Kirby Avenue after the skiing death of Moore’s daughter Wendy due to a traumatic brain injury, Moore is passionate about his startups. He says, “We hire people skilled in chemistry, engineering and business. We determined that focusing on starting companies is more profitable than buying them. And, I like to tinker.” The question he always seeks to answer is, “Where is there an unmet need?”
Founded in 1942, Jergens Inc. is a tooling component manufacturer located in Cleveland’s Collinwood Neighborhood. Christy Schron dreamed of having his own machine shop with his son Jack, who attended Collinwood High School. Christy and Jack first operated the business in a rented a garage on East 152nd Street. Soon, they outgrew the space, and Jergens’ found a new home on East 163rd off of St. Clair. In the midst of World War II, business was booming, and it was difficult to find a qualified workforce. Jergens began holding training classes in the shop every evening to keep up production and support the war effort.
Business continued to grow as Jergens moved to its third Collinwood location on Nottingham Road. In 1999, Jergens had again outgrown its facility and relocated to its current home on South Waterloo on the site of the former Collinwood Yards. The company continues to honor this legacy in its lobby that is decorated with railroad artifacts and antiques.
Jergens has been led since 1987 by its third generation of Schrons, with Jack Schron, Jr., currently at the helm as president. The family has demonstrated a commitment to keeping Jergens’ facilities in the City of Cleveland and maintaining jobs in Ohio. Jack Schron says, “Our first seeds were planted 75 years ago, and our roots were thoroughly entrenched. It is only natural that we would call Collinwood home for our next generation of Jergens.”
Jergens has partnered with the Cuyahoga East Vocational Education Consortium (CEVEC) in a pilot program in which high school students use Jergens as their classroom for the entire year. The program has a full-time teacher who works with students at the Jergens’ facility by introducing them to careers in manufacturing and helping prepare them to enter the workforce.
According to Schron, “The company was started to meet the needs of the second World War, and since then we have diversified into entertainment, industry, aerospace, medical and all walks of life. If you’ve ever been to a rock concert, you have seen our products without realizing it from the speakers to the ceiling. Our electric screwdrivers have put together air bags, hand-held cell phones and missile systems.”
There currently are six divisions/subsidiaries under the Jergens, Inc. umbrella: Jergens Tooling Component Division (TCD), Jergens Industrial Supply (JIS), Assembly Systems Group (ASG), ACME Industrial Company, Jergens Shanghai, and Jergens India. TCD focuses on lean manufacturing solutions in three areas: work holding solutions, lifting solutions, and specialty fasteners. TCD’s product line-up includes fasteners, hoist rings, Kwik-Lok pins, and Ball-Lock mounting systems. JIS offers a full line of cutting tools, carbide, and other tool inserts, coolants, abrasives, drills, and other industrial supplies. ASG is a supplier of products for threaded fastener assembly, including torque-controlled electric screwdrivers, automation products, and production aides. ACME manufactures threaded inserts and bushings. Jergens’ also has international sales offices in Shanghai, China, and Mumbai, India.
Jergens always is accepting applications from CNC machinists and workers with experience in skilled manufacturing.