GROVE CITY, PA.
The president of Wendell August Forge says the company is planning to break ground on its new facility in January, nearly three years after a fire destroyed its iconic workshop in March 2010.
Will Knecht says the company is still negotiating financing options for the new building at the same time architectural design features are being finalized, but the company, which specializes in handcrafted metal giftware, hopes to have the forge up and running sometime in 2013.
“This will be an experiential facility where our guests and tourists can come in to watch and hear our products being made,” said Knecht, whose family purchased the company in 1978. “It will be laid out so that they can really relish in the American craftsmanship of days gone by.”
The business fashions bronze, copper, pewter, aluminum and other metals into table-top decor, ornaments, jewelry, purses and other products for sale online, or at one of five retail locations in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
First opened in 1923 in Brockway, Pa., by coal baron Wendell August, the company was later enticed by a Grove City banker who offered free land there. The multimillion-dollar fire destroyed its forgery, office space and flagship retail outlet when a lacquer used to spray bronze pieces ignited and a fire-suppression system failed, taking down a building the company had called home since 1932.
Knecht said he didn’t think twice about eventually rebuilding, deciding “within an hour” to move the company’s future forward.
At the time, though, the economy made financing such a project difficult, and Knecht and other company officials first focused on stabilizing the business.
With insurance money, Wendell August found temporary rental space within five days of the fire where it has made its products since. Its flagship retail outlet was also moved to a separate location.
The new 50,000 square-foot facility will be almost three times the size of the company’s former workshop, allowing for the growth and ease of its manufacturing and distributing operations. Knecht estimated it would cost more than $1 million to construct.
No work has started at the site near The Grove City Premium Outlets and only five miles from the company’s original location.