Ornamental Iron Gates
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Volume: 1, Issue: 2, Month: June 2005

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Virginia Metalcrafters the end of an era

Metalcrafters on the ropes in Waynesboro

By MICHAEL L. OWENS mowens@newsvirginian.com

When gracing a home with the most intricate iron and bronze chandeliers and sconces available, local Internet shop Blue Moon Galleries looks to Virginia Metalcrafters for the handiwork.

But, for how much longer?

News of an impending massive layoff at the mainstay metal works is stirring up concerns of a boarded-up business on the horizon.

It’s the end of an era if it went out of business, Blue Moon Galleries owner Stacey Evans said Friday.

Much of the products Evans’ store sells to big-name Hollywood favorites and other customers come from Virginia Metalcrafters. Company brass recently warned Waynesboro officials of plans to layoff 58 of its 75 workers.

With nearly 80 percent of its workforce heading out the door, however, Waynesboro Economic Director Brent Frank wonders how much longer the company will continue to thrive.

If you have that few people left, are you actually producing anything? he said. “I don’t know if they are"

The company, now with two showrooms in the city, has churned out handcrafted ornamental metal housewares for nearly 115 years. It has created a national reputation in the years since.

Businessmen Chris Parks and Mike Innes bought the company - with slightly more than 100 employees on the roster - in the fall of 2003.

Neither Parks nor Innes returned multiple calls for comment Friday.

The workforce has dwindled ever since the takeover, with the roster whittled down to 90 people last fall.

City Manager Doug Walker learned of the layoffs when calling the company to verify rumors he’d heard of an imminent shakeup.

“It is certainly indicative of the changing economic environment that we have been talking about for several years,” Walker said.

Company officials have yet to warn buyers of an impending shutdown or of a drop in production, Evans said.

“We’re still putting in orders every day,” she said. “We will continue to sell Virginia Metalcrafters products in our store and on our Web site and support the store as it continues to go through its transition.”

Virginia Metalcrafters traces its origins to 1890, when it was billed as the Loth Stove Company, founded in Waynesboro by William Loth.

Its specialty included cast iron stoves, coal heaters, frying pans, waffle irons and other cookware. The owners turned toward gift sales after 1922, and changed the name to Virginia Metalcrafters in 1938.

“If they’re not producing products here, then we’re certainly concerned about the long-term viability of them being here,” Frank said.

Contact Michael L. Owens at 932-3563.

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