The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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October 26, 2013

Forging a new future

Wendell August rises from ashes, opens new home

SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP — A day after witnessing a fire destroy his Grove City business 3 1/2  years ago, Will Knecht vividly remembers walking through the ruins with his insurance adjuster.

“He told me, ‘Be prepared to be out of business for nine months,’ ” said Knecht, president of Wendell August.

Unfazed, Knecht and his employees pulled together and within five days had the metal giftware company’s workshop up and running at a new location and its office operations established in two weeks. Help came from everywhere, workers, the community – even complete strangers.

“Western Pennsylvania is such an amazing place,’’ he said. “The people just wrapped their arms around us.’’

Standing in his company’s newly completed $8 million complex on Thursday in Springfield Township, Knecht watched as shoppers bought merchandise on this first day of the “soft’’ opening of the retail store. Comprising 52,000 square feet, the complex has all the company’s needs in one location – retail, production, offices and warehouse.

The retail store’s design has a combination of modern, vibrant colors with snazzy shelves but still keeps the company’s historical American look with woodwork throughout.

Designed by Jerry Herschman, a Cleveland architect and a Knecht friend, new ideas for the business were created within the design. In the back office everyone, save for the company’s chief financial officer, works in an open, cubicle-like environment – including Knecht.

“People were a little nervous about this,’’ Knecht acknowledged of office workers. “But we want to have a collaborative, collegial place to work in.’’

To compensate for the openness, several conference rooms were created where private discussions can be held. Other features in the office include TV monitors that will continually post financial and production numbers that the staff can see daily.

“We always want to be on top of what we’re doing,’’ Knecht said.

An area was created where employees can create displays and practice presentations for trade shows, which are vital for sales.

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