Beloit, Wis.-based Patch Products announced on Thursday the company will consolidate its operations, and in the process shut down its Smethport manufacturing facility at 51 Magnetic Ave., effective Feb. 28.
The closure will affect 15 manufacturing employees and managers, company officials confirmed.
In a company-issued press release, company president Brian Maxwell said, “While the decision to close the Smethport, Pennsylvania facility was a difficult one, it is important for the long term health of the organization. As we evaluate the trends of the toy industry and the needs of the future, we felt it was important to consolidate our manufacturing facilities.”
Patch Products' most notable toy is the Wooly Willy. For several years, Smethport Borough held an community event centered around the famous brand.
In regards to what happens next for the company’s employees, Maxwell said Patch Products will provide the affected workers with severance packages and resources to aid in their employment search.
“I want to thank our employees for their service and dedication to Patch,” Maxwell said. “This is a difficult time, and we’re doing everything possible to provide support to those affected.”
For his part, Patch Products foreman Greg Rounsville described the mood around the facility as “quiet” upon hearing the news.
Rounsville said employees were given the rest of Thursday and today off to let the plant closure process. He also said while news of the plant closure is not welcome, it is not unexpected either. Rounsville said when Patch acquired Smethport Specialty Co. in 2003, the company was downsized from 40 employees to 17.
“We’ve actually seen this coming down the line,” Rounsville said when reached for comment by The Era on Thursday.
Rounsville, also the Smethport Borough Council president, said no municipality wants to see their business and industry leave town. He added the owners of the building, Bradford-based owners, Scott Cavagnro and Robert Daggett, will try to get another business to fill the vacant facility.
Rounsville said borough council also has a good working relationship with the Smethport Chamber of Commerce and would be open to assisting the Chamber to attract new business to the location.
The manufacturing of toys had been part of the Smethport landscape for more than 90 years, when Ralph Herzog and William Kerr started Marvel Specialty Co. in 1923. In 1932, Kerr sold his interest in the company, leaving Herzog as the sole proprietor. That year, the name was also changed to Smethport Specialty Co.
In 1955, the company started production on what would be their most notable product, the Wooly Willy toy. The company moved in to its current Magnetic Avenue facility in 1965. Smethport Specialty Co. acquired Lauri Toy Co. in 2003, and then merged with Patch Products in 2008.