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March 18, 2010

Forge resumes production at ex-Bessemer

Only one die lost in March 6 fire

Story was published March 13, 2010.



Within five days of a devastating fire that destroyed the Wendell August Forge plant and showroom in Grove City, the company opened a new chapter in its history.

Employees, their families and friends had pulled together to salvage everything they could and moved it to temporary quarters in the former Cooper-Bessemer building on Lincoln Avenue, Grove City, with plans to reopen.

“Last Saturday we closed the book on a chapter in our history and today we are on page one of a new chapter,” said Will Knecht, owner and president of Wendell August Forge, at a press conference on Thursday.

“We were a team – now we are family.”

The company has 55 employees at the Grove City location, all of whom have been working this week. Instead of their regular duties, the employees have been recovering what they could from the site of the fire.

Knecht said that the company has heard from people in western Pennsylvania – from Erie to Pittsburgh, in eastern Ohio, across the country and around the world. They have called, sent e-mails and posted messages on Wendell August’s Facebook page.

In a short ceremony that Knecht started with prayer, the first of a 20,000-piece order was hammered by Jeff Brown, director of operations. The design is a replica of the ticket for the Pittsburgh Penquins’ final regular season game to take place in the Mellon Arena.

Master engraver, Dave Bruck, worked around the clock in his friend’s basement finishing the die of the ticket so that production could begin. The rectangular aluminum piece has the Penquins logo and the image of Mellon Arena.

Knecht said that the craftsmen have been divided into two teams. One team is beginning production of the Penguins order, which is to be completed by April 6. The other team is focused on restoring the 2,800 dies recovered from their former building.

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