I came across a link recently of a set of cabinets manufactured by Youngstown Kitchens that had been boxed up for 67 years, that were opened up and assembled. For anyone that is into retro materials, this is an amazing find. In its day, this would have made for an amazing kitchen.
What struck me was that this was just one example of the quality workmanship that was characteristic of the people of the Mahoning Valley during the years we were growing up in Youngstown.
Of course, there was the steel industry itself. Youngstown at one time was the third largest steel manufacturer in the U.S. and this only comes about through a work force that was good at what it was doing.
My wife’s father worked for General Fireproofing and the office furniture they manufactured was both stylish for its day and built to last. We have two GF desks and a file cabinet in our house and I swear they will probably outlast the house–and us! We’ve actually thought of hiding under the desks during tornado warnings!
There were a number of other companies connected to steel manufacturing. Youngstown Steel Door and Republic Steel both manufactured various steel doors for commercial uses. I believe the lockers we used at school were manufactured by Republic.
Sadly, all these great companies are long gone. GM Lordstown continues to build American-made cars, subject to the ups and downs of the auto industry. The main steel manufacturing these days is Valourec Star’s operations located off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, northwest of downtown. They manufacture pipe for the oil industry. Recently declining oil prices have led to idling the plant in February of 2015. Renewing steel manufacturing in Youngstown continues to be a challenge!
It seems that one other area where “made in Youngstown” continues to have a regional and national impact is in the area of food processing. Schwebel’s has long been a fixture. My wife grew up down the street from their plant on Midlothian Boulevard, and you could often smell fresh baking bread in the air from her home, or as you drove past the plant. Of course there is Handel’s just down the road from Schwebel’s. And, as I wrote about in a recent post, DiRusso’s has a plant that supplies a several state area. All three have Columbus outlets and I have Schwebel’s bread and DiRusso’s sausage in my fridge as I write this. Rust Belt Brewing has gained a foothold in local craft beer brewing in Youngstown (hard to find in Columbus, however). National fast food chains Arby’s and Arthur Treacher’s were once headquartered in Youngstown.
“Made in Youngstown” reflects the pride of workmanship of the people who built the economy of the city in the post World War Two era. The work was often hard, and made more difficult because of management/labor conflicts. Whether the delight was to the eye, or the tongue, or simply in the feel of something well-made, products coming out of Youngstown were associated with quality.
No doubt, I’ve not exhausted the list of things “made in Youngstown.” I’d love to hear your stories of other things made in Youngstown, and the people who made them.