JOHNSTOWN - When the Mohawk Cabinet Co. had its ribbon-cutting at the Holiday Inn, it didn't have any customers yet. All it had, in the words of company President Jim Law, was two freezers and a "handful of replacement parts."
By the time the event was over, it had its first customer.
Now, one year later, Mohawk has 27 different model freezers and more than 100 replacement parts to go along with 28 customers. The company also continues to add jobs at the pace it projected when Law formed the company in April 2010, nearly a year after Hussmann closed its doors on Route 30A and moved its freezer plant to Mexico.
Mohawk Cabinet Director of Maintenance George McRedmond works on making a picker unit in an assembly area at the shop.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
"What made it happen was the work force that was here," Law said. "All those unemployed people."
Law remembers being there Dec. 3, 2008, as the employees were told the plant was being closed the following June.
"I couldn't find anybody," he said. "They were all in the back being told they were losing their livelihoods. They were coming out one by one crying. Everybody. They lost their job; they lost their lives."
Law, who was a Hussman employee at the time, said he was asked by a couple of the laid-off workers if he could help. After discussions, he and several others determined they could make freezers with limited resources out of a space in the Universal Warehouse, across the street from the old Hussman facility.
"They knew there was a need for this product," Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry President Wally Hart said. "They knew they could make a good product and we're just fortunate they were able to put that plan together and do it."
Even the company's name, Mohawk Cabinet, came from the past. The original Mohawk Cabinet Co. opened in the late 1940s near Utica and came to the town of Johnstown in the late 1950s. It remained the Mohawk Cabinet Co. until being purchased by Hussmann in the early 1970s.
Now, the company and the former employees of the Hussmann plant have new life.
On April 28, the company unveiled two more freezer models, bringing its total to 27, and celebrated making more than $100,000 worth of deliveries in March at its one-year anniversary celebration.
"That was huge," Law said.
Additionally, Mohawk has four 48-foot trailers in the yard at Universal Warehouse filled with components and about $500,000 in back-orders.
"That's a lot to happen in a year, and they're growing," Hart said.
Today, the Mohawk Cabinet Co. employs seven people, including Law, all of whom are former Hussmann employees. By the end of the third quarter of 2011, Law said the company plans to have 10 employees, and plans are in place to double that by its second anniversary. The company's five-year goal is to have 50 full-time employees.
Mohawk Cabinet has a large space in the back of the Universal Warehouse, where it manufactures its products. However, there is additional room available to them in adjacent areas, toward the front of the complex.
"Our landlord is kind enough that we can grow in this space," Law said.
Growth is exactly what Hart is predicting for the company and touted the local workers who brought back a former independent company, along with some of the jobs that were lost when Hussmann left town.
"To have local people own a company like this; to put their blood, sweat and tears into it, that's really important. We're also really proud to have manufacturing here because it is a challenge. But when you're doing this kind of quality, you can make it work."
Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.