Tennessee Kettle King Expands with Alabama Help

Two Alabama companies are working on a new, 127, 000-square-foot foundry for Lodge Manufacturing Co., the family-owned maker of cast iron pots and kettles that’s been around since 1896.

Vulcan Engineering, of Helena, is contractor for the project and Dunn Building Co., of Birmingham, is on the design/build team at Lodge’s riverside facility in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. 

In January 2015 the company built the largest foundry expansion in its history, but the 50 percent capacity increase hasn’t been enough to keep up with sales, according to company spokesman Mark Kelly. “We’ve doubled our business in the past five years, so we’re building both a distribution center and a new foundry. The total for both is $91 million, ” says Kelly.

The new foundry will have two production lines, increasing manufacturing capacity by 75 percent. Lodge expects to add 92 employees to its current level of 300 workers when the new foundry is completed in June 2017. It will include a melt center, sand system and two sand-cast molding machines. Lodge currently produces between 1, 600 and 8, 000 pieces of foundry-seasoned cast iron cookware an hour. Its products include skillets, griddles, reversible griddles, grill pans, Dutch ovens and restaurant serving pieces.

A decade ago the company employed about 200 people, Kelly says. Lodge has grown in part by forging partnerships with companies like Bass Pro Shop, Cabela’s and Academy, not typically connected with the sale of cooking implements. But they also do business with gourmet specialty retailers, such as Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table. Too upscale? You can also find Lodge pots and pans at hardware chains Ace and True Value.

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Once you own your skillet, they’ll even help you figure out how to use it. Lodge Cast Iron has six cookbooks on the preparation of food with cast iron cookware and accessory items for the culinary and outdoor markets.

Text by Dave Helms

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