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Pot calling the kettle blue.

Pot Calling the Kettle Blue

Answer this. You're the president of a cookware company that needs to streamline its operation. You begin a program of consolidation, combining factories and selling off investments outside your cookware business. Now, to save even more money, you'd like to move your corporate headquarters away from the East Coast. The question is, where in the country do you go?

Terre Haute, of course. That's where Paul A. Saxton, president and recently named CEO of General Housewares Corp., decided to move his top executives in June of last year.

"We wanted our headquarters to be located in the same building as one of our factories," Saxton says. "Here we have office space and could release our rented property in Stamford, Conn. We're operating at a lower cost."

Saxton says the days are long gone when large cities were the ticket to big


"Proximity is no longer relevant," he says. "We can talk to New York about a legal document with a phone, fax and computer screen and have everything signed in two days. The place to run a profitable business is no longer in big places. It's in small places."

And profitable it has been. An annual revenue of nearly $69 million in 1990 placed GHC 55th on Indiana Business Magazine's list of the state's top public companies.

GHC's factory in Terre Haute is the only remaining domestic producer of "blue granite" cookware, the ceramic-on-steel pots and pans used by U.S. families since the 19th century.

Under GHC's direction since 1967, the factory has been making ceramic-on-steel cookware since it was built in 1901. Though the enameled steel material was used heavily in cooking utensils, hospital sanitary ware and chamber pots in the early 1900s, its demand has decreased with the advent of plastics and stainless steel. Today, Terre Haute feeds the remaining need for blue granite roasters and canners. It also produces chamber pots for the three out of every 100 U.S. households that do not have indoor plumbing.

The current recession has increased the level of canning in the United States, causing a robust 6 percent increase in canner sales from last year for the company.

The pots are stamped out of steel, washed, and then dipped into a special ceramic solution. It drips dry, and then is cooked in two ovens. The second oven, a melting chamber that heats to 1400 degrees Fahrenheit, seals the ceramic coating to the steel. The coating dries to the clearness of glass, while calcium in the solution stays white, giving the blue metal its speckled look. No two pots dry the same, so every design is different. In addition to blue granite, the cookware comes in white, cream and black.

GHC markets its cookware through advertisements in gourmet magazines and with extensive displays in department and hardware stores and catalog showrooms. It also emphasizes "on-package advertising." The box for one stainless-steel pan, for example, might hold a description about other products in the GHC line.

Besides the cookware made in Terre Haute, GHC makes Chicago Cutlery, a brand of knives that was top-rated by Consumer Reports in 1988. The cutlery is manufactured at an Illinois plant.

And near the end of 1990, GHC acquired some assets of Mendix, a national marketer of cutlery that claims never to need sharpening.

PHOTO : "Blue Granite": A Terre Haute factory is the last domestic producer of ceramic-on-steel cookware.
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Title Annotation:General Houseware Corp.'s "blue-granite" cookware
Author:Murphy, Scott
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jul 1, 1991
Previous Article:Conway Enterprises.
Next Article:Indiana's Entrepreneurs of the Year (Entrepreneur of the Year Awards 1991) (Cover Story)

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