May 31, 2000
Family Takes Pride in Business
“George started this all on his own.”
In one sentence, Gerry Ostich captured 50 years of family history and pride. With a sweep of her hand, she gestured across the factory floor of the Akron Foundry on Wingate Avenue in South Akron. That is the business her husband, George Ostich, started in 1950.
Gerry recently threw a party for George at their church hall and invited all the company’s 210 employees and their spouses.
When you see this kind of pride, it makes you appreciate the value of a family business built over years of hard work.
A family business isn’t just about numbers on paper or earnings from quarter to quarter. It’s a heritage.
You see the young wizards of the dot-com world, some of whom build their fortunes with amazing speed. But will they ever know the personal satisfaction of nurturing a business over years, through the good times as well as the sleepless nights.
Lean times? Gerry Ostich remembers when cutting back meant not buying a 25-cent bag of chips.
But the Ostich’s had a faith that carried them beyond the tough times. And then devoted their lives to the journey, not just to the destination of financial wealth.
George Ostich built Akron Foundry literally with his own hands.
When he was 23 years old, he bought an abandoned building in Cleveland that had been owned by Cleveland Electric Illuminating. He had the pieces of the building loaded on to a tractor-trailer and moved to an acre of land he had purchased on Wingate for $2500. Ostich then reconstructed that old CEI building, piece by piece. It took him two years, with the help of a Barberton firefighter.
When he finished, he considered selling it, but his mother urged him to keep it and start his own business.
He had worked for a year at a foundry in California after leaving the Army. So he started a foundry of his own, making wood and metal patterns for industrial uses. Later, he moved into the production of aluminum castings.
“How did I get business?” he said. “I had to go out and solicit it. I made sales calls. I was the factory worker, the salesman, the molder. Just like a mother in a kitchen, you do it all.
In time, he developed new products to gain an edge. “We saw certain products, and we thought we could make them better,” he said.
That process of innovation has been never ending. As with any business, customers come and go. He has survived, he said, by constantly developing new products.
Today, Ostich’s plant has expanded to over 100,000 square feet – from that original 5000 square foot building. According to Ostich, the company does about $17 million a year in sales, mostly across the United States, but also abroad.
“You have to constantly reinvest,” Ostich said. “If you cheat the company, you cheat yourself. And the thing behind new equipment is that it should never cost you anything. It should pay for itself.” He pointed to a robot on his shop floor that he said can out-weld 2 ½ people because it doesn’t get tired.
Akron Foundry is a family business in the truest sense. Twelve family members work there, including the Ostich’s son, Michael, who is vice president of the company; daughter Diane Pancoe, an accountant; and Diane’s husband, Michael Pancoe, who is vice president of a companion company, Akron Electric on Eagon Street in Barberton.
“I love it,’ said Gerry. “Where else could you go to work and be with your family all day?”