Part 2: Made in Urbana, Sold in Urbana

Welcome to the second in a three-part series of posts about products manufactured and available for purchase in Champaign County, Ohio.

For this post, I take you to Williams Hardware in Urbana, a locally-owned store that’s part of the Do It Best cooperative of independent hardware and home improvement stores.

This post features products made by two long-time Urbana manufacturers. The first product (I hope) will soon be back in season, replacing snow shovels and deicer.

Adjustable window screen made by W.B. Marvin Manufacturing Co. of Urbana, Ohio

A W.B. Marvin adjustable window screen

Until then, adjustable window screens made by W.B. Marvin Manufacturing Co. of Urbana sit back in the stockroom.

Pete White, W.B. Marvin’s general manager, said that in the past year the Urbana plant has produced more than a million of the screens in various sizes for national and international markets and retailers that include Home Depot, Lowe’s, True Value, Kmart, Ace and Big Lots. They’re also available at the Urbana Walmart store.

“We sell more than we ever have,” White said.

And just seven years ago, W.B. Marvin, founded in 1915 by William Marvin Johnson, closed its doors. The company started out making lightweight window fans before introducing metal rail adjustable screens in 1936, screen window fans in 1945 and later space heaters. Due to supply problems for the heaters, the facility shut down.

Then along came Thermwell Products Co., Inc. of New Jersey, maker of Frost King weatherstripping and insulation products. Thermwell acquired W.B. Marvin in January 2008, reopened the Urbana facility and put the plant’s laid off employees back to work. And Thermwell has since purchased additional property for future expansion.

Desmond Stephan Manufacturing Co. grinding wheel dresser at Williams Hardware, Urbana, Ohio

Richard Van Buskirk of Williams Hardware with a Desmond Stephan grinding wheel dresser.

W.B. Marvin’s summer line of window screens formed the perfect complement to Frost King’s winterizing products, Mel Gerstein, Thermwell president, said. “It would be a tragedy to allow the Marvin name and quality reputation to disappear.”

You’ll find the other locally made product in Williams’ tool section – a grinding wheel dresser made by the Desmond Stephan Manufacturing Company, which has been in continuous operation in Urbana since 1898.

Desmond Stephan, touting the only complete line of wheel dressers, markets across the U.S. and in 17 other countries, mostly through industrial distributors that sell to foundries and small machine shops.

Three Cheers for Local Hardware Stores

Besides Williams Hardware, Champaign County has two other Do It Best stores – Downing’s Hardware in Mechanicsburg and Skelley Lumber Co. in Urbana.

I’m a fan of local hardware stores. Home repair-impaired and the owner of an old house, I value the personal attention I get when I cross the threshold of Williams or Skelley’s. (I’m sure the same could be said of Downing’s, though living in Urbana, I haven’t shopped there yet.)

They save me time and sanity. I carry in odd, antiquated, worn out pieces of plumbing, or what not, and I soon leave with advice and replacement parts. I’ve found that at big box stores, I wander in search of a sales associate and a solution to my home repair dilemma.

What local stores do you depend on?

I’ll be back with one more post for this series — and then a post about the changing of the guard and continuing of tradition in a Champaign County business that’s been a landmark since 1893.

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