Tuesday, August 19, 2008

100 Years of Making Things in Dayton

The Dayton Daily News has a good pair of articles on the the 100th anniversary of Gerstner, the wood tool chest manufacturer (also includes a photo spread). The articles point out how the company managed to meet competition from Asia by opening a plant in China to make a lower cost line of chests, while maintaining their Datyon plant for their regular line (which costs more but is higher quality).

This company sounds a bit like a US version of a German Mittelstand firm, which are usually family-owned, and specialize in high quality products for a niche market. The concept was popularized in the US by business consultant Tom Peters, who blogged a bit on this last year.

Gerstner is a great example of how Dayton was (and still is) diversified in manfacturing, somthing that is obscured by the mass-employment auto sector. What's really remarkable too is that the company still keeps its plant in the city.

(Sanborn from 1950, showing the plant across the street from Aetna Paper, right on the levee. The Gersnter shop dates from 1913, though the company goes back to 1906).

This is nearly the last survivor from old West Dayton's industrial past, and the last factory along the river in this part of West Dayton. So a remarkable survivor, not just staying in business for 100 years, but remaining at the same location since 1913.


kevin said...

Thanks for the post, Jeffery. I also saw the article this morning and I felt ashamed I didn't really know of this company. You'd think as a woodwork from the area I would have a clue. Congratulations to H. Gerstner and Sons. Here's to 101 more years here of success in Dayton. :)

Anonymous said...

Here's another article on Gerstner's which goes into their history and craftmanship a little bit more.

Jefferey said...

I was aware of the company but wasn't sure what kind of chests they made. These are pretty sprecialized.

That was an interesting article, thanks MM.