*This story first appeared in The Budget’s July 18, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
Warther Cutlery of Dover is preparing to open a new chapter in its 115-year history with the construction of a new, 15,000-square-foot manufacturing facility.
A formal groundbreaking was held May 4 for a new, three-floor facility that will feature a larger manufacturing area and gift shop, public viewing area and third-floor office spaces.
Constructing a new facility is something the growing company had been seriously considering for several years now, according to Warther Cutlery President Steven Cunningham.
“Once we got some new equipment, and we started doing a little bit more on the wood product side with the cutting boards, the serving boards, and had some other opportunities kind of open up, we started quickly outgrowing the space that we had,” he explained. “It was going to be a matter of time, regardless, to try to find a new space.”
Plans were expedited following the acquisition earlier this year of an adjacent property owned by relatives of the Warther family. “The opportunity just kind of opened itself and fit at the right time for us to just go across the alley,” Cunningham said.
The new facility was designed by B.A. Widder Architectural Services of New Philadelphia and is being constructed by Benchmark Construction with the help of local subcontractors.
“We kind of stressed to keep everything local if we can,” Cunningham said. To date, the foundation has been dug, and crews were working on building up the exterior walls of the basement level, which will house a much larger manufacturing facility with enough space to accommodate the company’s current operations with room for future growth.
“With the space we have now, I can’t really hire too many more peo- ple, just because we’re on top of each other the way it is,” Cunning- ham shared. “The new space is going to allow us to have more flex- ibility with employees and add more people.”
Cunningham noted that business has been growing steadily over the last two or three years, with the company on track to sell about 30,000 knives this year.
The new facility will also create opportunities for the company to expand its offerings to include some additional products. “We’ll have a lot more opportunities to open up the wood product side, and we have some new things coming through the pipeline with the knives,” Cunningham said.
On the retail side, the second floor of the new building will house a sales area nearly twice the size of the existing gift shop. “We’re going to have a lot more space to put a lot more of our own products,” Cunningham said.
He noted that the company has hired an outside consultant to help give the new retail space a fresh look and feel, however, the level of service provided to customers will remain unchanged. “You’ll still be able to come in and get your knives sharpened through the gift shop. We’ll still have a viewing area for the knife shop,” he said. “None of that is changing.”
In addition to showcasing additional products, the retail space will feature some interactive displays and an area for events and demonstrations, according to Marketing Director Katie Cunningham. “The new store might have a few more interactive things where you can use the knives and test them and where we can have some events and things where we can bring the com- munity in to interact with our product and kind of promote cooking and the things we do,” she said.
The entire project is expected to be completed by the beginning of next year, but the company is hoping to have the gift shop open by mid-fall, just in time for the holidays. “There might still be some construction going on after we get into the store, which is fine,” Cunningham said. “There might be some exterior work and some stuff on the third floor that might come a little bit after, but we want to open to the public in the fourth quarter.”
In the meantime, the community is invited to follow the project’s progress in real time by checking out the 24/7 video feed of the construction site being streamed on the company’s website, warthercutlery.com. A time-lapse video of the footage will be posted after the project reaches completion.
Now in its fourth generation of family ownership, Warther Cutlery is dedicated to carrying on the time- honored traditions and quality craftsmanship of Master Carver Ernest “Mooney” Warther, who constructed his first kitchen knife as a gift for his mother in 1902.
Warther products are currently available for purchase online and in the Warther Museum gift shop at 327 Karl Avenue in Dover. The gift shop is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sharpening hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.