A phoenix rising: Lorac Union Tool
Looks can be deceiving. A broken sign. Worn-out chairs. Wood-paneled walls and brown rugs, circa 1950s. Not vintage-cool old. Just old.
In its prime in the 1970s, Lorac Union Tool was a powerhouse in the jewelry industry. It was known for its wide range of beautifully detailed brass stampings made from hand-carved dies. The years, however, were not kind to Lorac. By the time Kyle Raeburn took it over last year, it was a ghost of its former self. In fact, at a recent networking event, Kyle found himself having to explain that, yes, Lorac was still in business. But nothing about it is going to be the same-old.
A new generation
In September 2014, Lorac Union was acquired by International Insignia Corporation, which is owned by Kyle’s father. International Insignia manufactures military badges, medals, rank pins, and other decorative emblems. Lorac was up for sale just when International Insignia needed to expand its operations so the plan was that Kyle would manage Lorac, making the stampings needed for the military products. That suited Kyle just fine. Manufacturing is in his DNA. He is the sixth generation in the family business that got its start during the American civil war. He earned his management degree from Bentley University with the intention that he’d return to the family business. But he did not simply inherit the business. He grew up in the military insignia factory, learning the business not from the boardroom, but from the factory floor. When he was 13 years old and wanted a gas-powered remote control car, his father told him he could have it—by earning the money polishing medallions over the summer break from school. He smiles at the memory. “That’s the part I like about the manufacturing business,” says Kyle. “I like getting my hands dirty. I like tinkering, figuring out how to make and fix things.”
A new century
It turns out that some things get fixed not with a wrench, but with an idea. Looking at the jewelry stampings pinned to the dozens of showroom boards and the inventory (definitely vintage-cool old) piled in rows and rows of metal drawers and shelf upon shelf stacked with bins, Kyle did some research about the state of the costume jewelry industry today. He paid attention to who was still buying Lorac Union stampings and findings. A plan started to form. First, get rid of broken machinery and fixtures. Reorganize the press rooms, inventory stock areas, shipping room, and other areas to get up and running to supply International Insignia. Then prioritize the long list of what it takes to go from a has-been jewelry manufacturer to a thriving 21st-century business. Hire more than 13 new employees–check. Add a new roof–check. Update the computer system–check. Develop a marketing plan—check.
A new plan
First item on the marketing plan: launch a newsletter (done), create a new website (in process), then hold an open house to invite buyers to buy extra inventory directly and on the spot (coming soon). Um, how exciting is that for local designers?! As I toured the bins and bins of inventory, I had to keep myself from squealing. OK, I may not have held it all in. If Kyle heard, he graciously pretended not to hear.
Luckily for Lorac, Kyle is a marathon runner. He knows how to pace himself, keeping his mind on the desired end result. He can go the distance. He’s in this for the long haul, not just buffing it up to make it shiny. He’s reinventing Lorac. He knows he’s got his work cut out for him. “There have been challenges. But,” he says, “it’s going to be fun.”
It’s going to be fun watching this phoenix rise out of the ashes.
A few things Kyle wants you to know:
- You can order what is known as a sample quantity. At Lorac Union Tool, this means one dozen. There is a $15 minimum. (That is not a typo.)
- Lorac Union ships worldwide.
- It’s best to call for information or to place an order, at least while the new website and computer systems are being built.
- Lorac Union is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., though they do close a little early on Fridays during the summer.
- Great things are on the way! Please sign up for the newsletter (see below) to stay in the know.
How to contact Lorac Union:
- Sign up for the newsletter, which announces flash sales for in-person buying and other exciting news for buyers around the world.
- Visit the website at www.LoracUnion.com for an online catalog. Keep in mind it hasn’t been updated yet, so if you’re looking for something you don’t see, be sure to call.
- Call (401) 781-3330 or toll free (888) 680-3236. (You’ll probably talk to Maria, who is passionate about the creative possibilities she sees in every Lorac Union Tool stamping. She’ll help you get what you need.)
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