Small Business Spotlight: Albright Saw Company

Albright historic pic

This antique photo features a number of Jerry Albright’s relatives and many others from the community who worked in logging and sawmills in Vinton County.

Ask Jerry Albright to talk about his work and two things are clear: he loves what he does and he knows his business. The founder of Albright Saw Company has officially been in business since 1979 but his experience started when he was a teenager just helping out his dad, Johnny.

Today he owns the Frick brand of sawmills, one of the best known and oldest sawmill brands in the country. They manufacture, sell and service sawmills but that’s just the tip of the saw blade when it comes to describing what they do.

To understand the Albright story, it’s important to go back a few generations. “My great grandpa, my grandpa and my dad all worked in sawmills. They sawed, logged, farmed. They were just like everyone else, they did whatever they had to do to make a living,” Jerry said before describing his own upbringing in Vinton County, being raised by his parents, Ruth and Johnny Albright.

The family lived on Pretty Run Road, near where his business is located today. With six kids to support, Jerry’s dad farmed and owned a sawmill before eventually teaching himself the art of saw hammering. This is the technique used to straighten a saw. It’s done with an eight pound hammer, an 800 pound anvil and a two foot long straightedge. His dad was known as the man to see if you had trouble with a sawmill.

In that day, dozens of sawmilling operations across Vinton County provided a large nearby customer base. He did this work during the day and worked nights for Dale Riddle’s mill and the teenaged Jerry helped where he could. “I was lucky to grow up around it and it just came easy to me. I was lucky to come from a family that taught us to work hard,” he said.

Today, Jerry has a reputation much like his father’s. “I like being the one that can fix it, the one you call when no one else can figure out the problem,” he said.

That reputation was hard earned. Over 41 years Jerry has built a customer base of thousands, taking him all over the country to hammer saws and to fix sawmill troubles.

He had been selling products for big brands when opportunity knocked in 1993. That’s when Jerry contacted Frick, in hopes of becoming a distributor. However, the company was for sale and new distributors weren’t being sought.

On a whim, he asked for a price. Realizing it was a fair price and good opportunity to buy the operation including all the blueprints, patterns, copyrights, equipment, molds and parts, he visited the Mississippi based facility and then the bank for financing. Within a short amount of time he was the proud owner of a brand that had been manufacturing trusted sawmills since 1875.

The rest, as they say, is history.

albright saw work

Jerrod Albright continues the family tradition, learning alongside his dad.

Since then, his company has supplied Frick sawmills to operations in 35 states including South Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and many points in between. Add in the parts distribution and saw hammering services and he has done business in 45 states and three Canadian provinces.

While there are a number of sawmill brands on the market, he said his mills are known for precision at an affordable price. “We can do the same volume as the other guy but more accurate and for less money.”

Today, there are just two other businesses in Ohio that do similar work hammering saws. “There aren’t a lot of us around,” he said.

What’s truly fascinating about Jerry Albright is that he’s able to speak so knowledgeably about how the machines work, the science involved in how a saw blade turns, and the computers used to run a modern sawmill that it would be easy to assume he has extensive formal training. But the Vinton County High School alum just laughs and shakes his head when asked about how he became so informed about everything from physics to engineering. “I’ve blown up a lot of stuff!” he exclaimed. “And I’m not really kidding. You learn a lot by doing,” he laughed.

All that experience has come in handy, helping thousands of customers across the country as well as some customers of his competitors. “I’m sort of a thorn in their side,” he said of his competitors while recalling one very expensive sawmill that wouldn’t work. The manufacturer wouldn’t help the new owner and the owners were desperate to get their new investment working.

Jerry was able to identify the issues in one visit, order parts and go back another day to oversee part replacement, adjustments and repairs. “I’ve never seen anyone as depressed as that sawmill owner when I got there. By midnight just a few days later we had it running right,” he said. With millions invested in a mill that didn’t work, the owner might have lost everything on this endeavor if not for Jerry’s years of expertise.

He has also shared his knowledge with countless sawyers, the person who operates the mill. One example is Shawn Cramer, an employee of the Zaleski State Forest. The state forest had a Frick sawmill which was destroyed by fire in recent years. Albright built the new sawmill that replaced it. He has been teaching the crew that operates it.

“There were one or two of us out there with some experience but the rest of us were greener than grass. He’s given us direction and helped us understand things better and helped us learn from our mistakes,” Cramer said. “He’s been nothing but helpful.”

Jerry is proud to say that the timber used for the new Lake Hope State Park Lodge was sawn by the Zaleski State Forest crew on a Frick sawmill. “When I visit, they let me play a little so, a couple of those beams in the lodge, I sawed myself. If you look up at the beams some of them have been sanded down and you’ll see the words Zaleski State Forest burned into them.”

Jerry also is known for a saw sharpener that he designed for accurate, safe and easy use.

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At home with Jerry and Debbie Albright. The couple have been married forty years and are known for their involvement in the community.

Debbie, his wife of forty years, smiles as her husband speaks of his business. “He’s so much fun to listen to and, I know he thinks I’m crazy when I say this but he practically glows when he talks about his work. I don’t know many people who get that truly excited about their work,” she said. “But sometimes I think he’s happiest on the phone troubleshooting someone’s problem or looking for a solution,” she said before describing her husband’s tendency to go the extra mile for customers.

“Over the years, with smaller operations where these guys can’t afford an expensive breakdown, he’ll be out scavenging for parts, looking for a good way to solve their problem so they can get back to work,” she said.

Another interesting twist in his story is that Jerry has assisted the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in two states with identifying ways to make sawmills safer. Historically, the industry has been dangerous and some of Jerry’s own relatives have been injured or killed in sawmill and logging accidents. Today he is working to make the industry safer for a new generation of workers.

Jerry and Debbie have three grown children – Angie who helped with the books through high school and college; Jerrod who now does the hammering; and Jordan who is studying Business at Rio Grande College and works in the office on breaks and creates digital concepts of drawings of sawmills. Son-in-law, Chad Hafner, has worked weekends at the Londonderry location.

They also have two grandsons, Michael and Matthew, who Debbie says are “dying to get into the sawmill business.” The two teens have been helping their grandfather since they were tots just big enough to hold a broom or a paint brush. “I’ll put them to work painting parts or something. They just like to help,” he said.

The pair beam as they talk about their family and of how they have been able to employ lots of family over the years. “All of my brothers but one, nephews, nieces and brothers-in-law. My sister has been my bookkeeper for years. It really is a family affair and that’s important, I think.”

“I’ve been lucky to have been able to hire many friends, neighbors and relatives over the years to produce quality equipment, and that has helped me stay in business over forty years,” he added.

Today, the company employs ten people and last year they manufactured about a dozen sawmills. Jerry said they stay as busy as he wants to be given that it is important to him that they have free time for family. When their kids were in school, Albright coached youth basketball, baseball and softball for thirty consecutive years.

When son Jerrod competed on an international traveling basketball team, his team competed once in Australia. Debbie and Jerry went with the team, taking along Jordan who was just a toddler at the time. Debbie recounted how the team coach was ejected from the game after a few warnings. Without a coach they faced disqualification so Jerry stepped up to coach the last few minutes of the game. “It was just a few minutes but for a while there I was an international coach,” he laughed.

“I am a lucky man. The people I have met, the people I do business with, they’re the best people in the world. You won’t meet nicer people,” he said “And I’ve been able to make a living doing something I enjoy. Helping people, fixing things, doing the things that no one else around knows how to do,” he said. “I am fortunate.”

Albright Saw Company has two locations – the original on Pretty Run Road in Vinton County and a retail location near Londonderry in Ross County. Learn more about Albright Saw Company on Facebook.

 

Small Business Spotlight: Homegrown on Main

Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!

Step inside Homegrown on Main and it feels a little like coming home. First you notice the aroma of candles and homemade soaps. Then you spot the wood floors and character of a remodeled old building before your eyes focus on an array of finely crafted local items.

Once your eyes settle on the shelves of pottery, baskets of photos and artful displays of jewelry and wood items, it’s hard to look away.

This store on Logan’s Main Street is home to 53 artists and craftspeople who create unique works of art from their homes and studios around the Hocking Hills region. Store Manager Rose Arthur smiles as she discusses the merchandise they sell that cannot be found anywhere else. “I love that we have such a variety of high quality work,” she said. “These are things you cannot buy anywhere else.”

The variety of mediums represented here is impressive – woodworking, fused glass, painting, blown glass, drawing, photography, candle making, writing, leather work, jewelry, pottery, knitting, sewing, crochet, alcohol inks and paper goods can be found here, representing a range of tastes and prices.

They also sell items to help local organizations including Empty Bowls, the Washboard Festival, Hemlock Heroes, the Hocking County Historical and Genealogical Society and Logan in Bloom.

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“It’s a lot to look at and take in. I think you see something different every time you walk through, Rose said. “We have some regulars who come in just to see what’s new so the artists are often changing their inventory and trying new things.”

For example, painter Donna Voelkel was inspired by peers creating alcohol inks. With some research and practice, she has mastered innovative techniques for embellishing alcohol inks, creating something entirely fresh and new. At the age of 84, she is proving that it’s always a good time to do something innovative.

This storefront was actually born from the ashes of the region’s beloved Hocking Hills State Park Dining Lodge which was destroyed by fire in 2016. Members of the Hocking Hills Artists and Craftsmen Association sold their creations at the lodge.

In addition to losing their art to the fire, they lost retail space as well.

That’s when the group began devising a new plan with the help of the Hocking Hills Tourism Association, the local organization aimed at bringing tourism to the community. Efforts were already underway to revitalize downtown Logan and it made sense for the partnership to be part of the revival by opening a retail store here.

The rest, as they say, is history. Today the partnership has strengthened and the interest in locally made art and crafts is ever growing. They’ve grown so much, in fact, that they outgrew the original location and have moved to a spacious storefront just down the street.

76993332_1485807894920285_3474159901402464256_nThe store is a popular stop for visitors who are looking to take home a vacation memory. “When people travel they like to take home a piece of the experience. For some that’s a painting or woodworking. Many people are collecting Christmas ornaments from their travels and we have those too,” she said.

But Homegrown on Main has a large appeal among locals too. She said that some customers come in  just to see what the store is about only to find that it’s a great source for gifts, handmade greeting cards or even something special for themselves.  “Locals are really starting to catch on and we’re so glad to have people in our community come in too,” she said.

Rose pointed out that most of the art represented at Homegrown on Main comes from people who have full time careers or other barriers that prevent them from being a full time artist with a storefront of their own. Having everyone work together in this partnership has improved visibility for the local artists, writers and musicians represented here.  They also act as a visitor’s center, answering questions, giving directions and distributing local information and maps.

One unique quality of this store is that shoppers can sometimes meet the artists during demonstrations. “People love to meet the artists at work and maybe even buy something from an artist they met who showed them how they do their work,” she said.  Some of the artists even offer workshops in their respected areas including basket weaving, glass, painting, knitting, water colors and jewelry.

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Rose hopes to see lots of new and familiar faces at the Holiday Open House they are planning for December 7. It will be held from noon to 6 p.m. and will include snacks, a door prize drawing, demonstrations and music by The Grace Notes from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The Logan Christmas Parade will also be held at 2 p.m. that day, making it the perfect time to stop by for a visit and some locally made gifts!

While there, be sure to check out their new holiday window display designed by Marcia Meyers. The Logan resident is known for her lifelike sculptures and Rose is certain that Santa will be a part of the festive window planned for reveal the day after Thanksgiving. If you’re out shopping on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday, be sure to stop in to see the window and find that perfect gift you won’t see in any big box store!

Homegrown on Main welcomes shoppers at their new location at 65 West Main Street in Logan.  They are open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Follow them on Facebook for news and information including events like the Holiday Open House on December 7.

Small Business Spotlight: Donut World

Small businesses are important to communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!

50755929_534720143701097_998579857665294336_nwhite donutsBill Miller doesn’t know what he would be doing if not for making donuts. That’s because he’s been in the donut business since his very first high school job at Jolly Pirate Donuts in Lancaster. For the last thirty years, he and his wife Cheryl have owned Donut World, a Lancaster landmark known for the best donuts in town.

A graduate of Berne-Union High School, Bill started working at Jolly Pirate doing clean-up work. “I started out with the most entry level job you could do there and worked up to night shift manager,” he said.

Bill and Cheryl opened their first shop in Logan in 1989 where they operated successfully until moving to Lancaster in 1993. Located at the corner of N. Broad Street and Sixth Street, the shop is just a few blocks off of Memorial Drive.

The delicious aroma of donuts permeates the neighborhood as one car after another lines up to order. Many are regulars who need only to pull up and wait for their favorite treat to be boxed and passed out the window. Others take their time selecting just the right donut.

People from the neighborhood walk in to pick up breakfast. A youngster with a clean report from the dentist next door comes in with a coupon to claim his rewards for taking care of his teeth. His dad requests a cherry turnover and the pair leave happy.

And this goes on all morning long.

The staff is friendly and cheerful, always glad to help the next person at the window. Some are family while others have been with the shop for many years. They even still have the first employee they hired in Logan in 1989. Bill and Cheryl’s daughter Heather works at the shop now but was just a little girl when she named it Donut World from the back seat of the family car. Together, they all seem to share the bonds that come from working in close quarters for a long time.

Group.jpgTheir variety of donuts is exceptional and includes over 50 kinds, including some seasonal favorites like pumpkin and cherry. “We tend to focus on the most popular and on the things people love the very best,” Bill said as he began naming customer favorites like chocolate iced vanilla, devil’s food, chocolate bismarks, apple fritters and cinnamon rolls. Still the runaway favorite here is good old fashioned glazed donuts. “People never get tired of our glazed donuts,” he said.

They do take requests and he said they are always open to new things if they think there’s a market.

The shop has a large following, not just in Fairfield County but across the region and beyond. “We have customers come up from Logan and Vinton County, from Columbus, Buckeye Lake –really from all over the area,” he said before going on to talk about those who come from much further away.

“We have a lot of customers who stop by when they come to visit family in town. They’ll come in from out-of-state, go see the family and then come straight here. We have people who say they wish we were wherever they live.”

Bill gives credit to many other people for his own successes. He speaks fondly of a friend in the donut business who encouraged him to open his own shop and then helped him get started. He smiles at the memory of an old friend, now deceased, who drew up the Donut Man character when Donut World was still just a dream in a young man’s mind. Donut Man still presides over the shop, looking down from the sign out front.

Bill credits his family for their hard work too. Cheryl does their books. His daughter, sons, grandsons, sister-in-law and mother either work in the shop now or have helped out over the years.

Most of all, he’s grateful to his parents and to his uncle who taught him work ethic, self-sufficiency and saving money.  “They taught me to be smart about saving, about growing food and preserving it, about building houses and taking care of things. I owe a lot to my mom and dad. I had the greatest parents you would ever want to have,” he said. “They taught me to be careful with money, to be reasonable and to always be fair.”

Then there are the people he’s met because of his line of work. “I’ve learned a lot from a lot of different people. When I worked nights at Jolly Pirate I would talk to older customers and to the night shift cops.  You can learn so much just from talking to people,” he pointed out.

Life, he said, hasn’t always been easy. “Especially in the beginning, in the early days in Logan, I worked eighteen to twenty hours a day for the first few years.”  Now he has a good staff in place and the time to enjoy some of his hobbies and pursuits. He especially enjoys big game hunting and trips on his motorcycle.

A lot of people don’t know Bill by name but they do know his business. “I see people everywhere I go and they just call me the ‘donut man’ and I think that’s pretty great. Everything I have is because of donuts so I’m always happy to stop and talk to my customers.”

51188981_382350412577202_6012871888466870272_nDonut World is one of the top ranked donut shops in Ohio and was the Best Bakery in Fairfield County in 2016 and 2017, according to the readers of the Lancaster Eagle Gazette.  They have a five star rating on Yelp and have a large following on Facebook too.

In addition to selling donuts by the single or by the dozen, they provide larger orders to local churches, schools and organizations. They also do close to fifty weddings per year, enjoying an ever growing trend to serve donuts in lieu of a wedding cake.

Donut World is located at 601 N. Broad St., in Lancaster.  Stop by or call them at 740.653.4888 to place your special order.  You can also follow them on Facebook.  Donut World is open 24-hours a day, closing only for Christmas morning. They recently began accepting plastic in addition to cash.

Helping businesses with PayChoice

closeup of blank check

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