PIQUA — Another longtime local business recently shut its doors after 97 years of operations, citing an inability to compete with offshore productions.
Piqua Champion Foundry, which opened in 1920 and poured iron and ductile iron castings, shut down operations in late March and stopped taking new orders in mid-January. They are currently in the process of cleaning up their foundry and selling equipment.
The current owners Larry and Renate Pickering said that they wanted to end the business “the right way,” not owing money to any employees or having any unpaid bills.
“We wanted to go out with our heads held high,” Renate said.
Renate said that they have been able to receive small orders, but “the good work is gone.”
“We just can’t compete against China and Mexico,” Larry said. He added later that, at one time, they used to pour 20,000 pounds of iron for cast moldings a day. Before ending operations, they were down to around 9,000 pounds of iron poured per day.
The highest temperature that the furnace at the Piqua Champion Foundry reached was approximately 2,800 degrees Fahrenheit. The Pickerings noted how the Piqua Power System continually took care of them and made sure that the foundry had enough energy to keep the furnace running.
Before the location of the business was a foundry, it was a coal yard. Larry and Renate purchased the business from Bob Haney in 1974 after Haney died in a car wreck the previous year. Their son, Ken Pickering, joined the business 10 years later to help run the foundry.
Larry started working in the industry in 1957 for Hobart Manufacturing, which had three foundries in Troy at the time.
“I worked down there for 14 years,” Larry said. He then came to the Piqua Champion Foundry in 1971. Prior to working in this industry, he served in the U.S. Army between 1954-1957.
During the 43 years the Pickerings owned Piqua Champion Foundry, they added on at least two additions to the property.
Other foundries that have also recently closed in Ohio include Cincinnati’s Cast-Fab and Dayton’s Flowserve.
For the Pickerings, one of the most difficult aspects of closing the Piqua Champion Foundry was when it came to their employees, a number of whom had been working at the foundry for decades.
“I started here when I was 16,” said David Lear, who had been working at the foundry for 42 years. “Couldn’t find a better place to work than here.”
“Couldn’t find a better boss,” said Doug Selanders, who had been working at the foundry for 38 years. He added that he will miss the foundry.
LC Michael, who had 51 years of experience at the foundry, added that Larry Pickering was “just like a big brother.” Michael said the closing of the foundry felt “like you lost part of your family.”
“These aren’t employees. They’re family,” Larry said.
The Pickerings and employees are still left with the memories of the quality work they created for their customers.
“People knew when a casting left Champion Foundry, it was right. It was good,” Larry Pickering said. “We had a good reputation.”
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 451-3336