MANSFIELD -- Sometimes, the old-fashioned way is just better.
After being drawn to Mansfield from Bristol in 1988, Carousel Works (known as the world’s largest carousel manufacturer) has become a staple to Mansfield.
It's made a tremendous impact locally. For instance, Carousel Works was named a finalist for the 2016 Small Business of the Year award in the 15 Employees and Over category by the Richland Chamber of Commerce.
“We looked at five things,” Jodie Perry, president of the Richland Area Chamber of Commerce, said of the finalists’ nomination process. “How they treated their employees, customer services, how involved they were with the community and entrepreneurship or how they over came business obstacles. Based on what I read in their application, they were strong in all areas.
“In particular, they have a lot of long-term employees and a unique way of training their employees.”
Being a part of the group of finalists was a big deal to Carousel Works because they felt the fortunate to be recognized for the company's hard work.
“I think it was a huge honor with all the nominees,” said Kate Blackley, Carousel Works’ director of marketing. "Just being a part of that amazing group of businesses is really a great honor.”
When the company first started, Blackley said, it was doing 100 percent restoration on individual figures and mechanisms. Slowly, the ratio shuffled to Carousel Works doing 25 percent restoration work and 75 percent creating new carrousels.
“We typically have one full restoration going on. Sometimes they can take several years.” Blackley said. “We have done about 26 new ones.
"We have one we will begin doing after the holidays which is steam-powered. It’s one of the only ones in the world. We are doing the figures and the mechanisms and everything, so it will be different, and then we have four new carousel projects we are working on as well. We usually work on three or four things at a time.”
The world’s largest wooden carrousel manufacturer has become an international business, creating and restoring carrousels for clients, cruise ships and amusement parks across the world.
“We had originally started going international when we started making carousels for Royal Caribbean, actually putting carousels out to sea,” Blackley said. “And then from there we have gotten into doing things in Canada.
"We were contacted by a group who owns several high-end malls. They wanted to bring something beautiful to their malls, enticement to the kids to ride while their parents went shopping. They didn’t want something plastic, they wanted something beautiful -- that will be going to Korea.”
Perry said international business such as Carousel Works helps put Mansfield on the map.
One of the things Blackley said the business is most proud of is how many local businesses and people Carrousel Works uses to produce their amusements.
“We have people who are really, really willing to be creative. A lot of stuff we need, there’s not a market for how we’re going to get it. So we’ve worked with (local) auto body shops, and when we’ve had to use metal components in the ships, and they don’t do carousels. It’s really great to have things like that — to have people willing to try it.”
Carousel Works employees are mostly from within Richland County and its surround area.
“Probably less than 10 percent of people who graduate with an art degree get to use their degree to create art. Maybe they work in museums or are teachers, but to literally produce art every day like we do, is rare," Blackley said. "For our artists in Mansfield, we employ 23 people, who get to make art at all levels and that’s all they do — they don’t build the product, they don’t finish the product, the don’t sell the product, they just create.
"I think that’s a really awesome place for people who love to create.”