MANSFIELD ─ The fall of The Carousel Works, Inc. was not only a business’ failure. It has a ripple impact on the entire carrousel community.
On Jan. 9, the Mansfield-based carousel maker filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Ohio. According to the U.S. Courts, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy is not a reorganization and involves the sale of a debtor’s nonexempt property and the distribution of the proceeds to creditors.
A petition document showed there are 38 creditors in this case. Carousel Works and its attorneys did not respond to Richland Source's inquiries by Friday. A for-lease sign has replaced the company’s billboard at 1285 Pollock Parkway.
Founded in 1986 by Art Ritchie and Dan Jones, Carousel Works identified itself as the world’s largest wooden carrousel manufacturer. Its customized works could be found all over the U.S. and in countries around the world.
Ritchie described the company as a “pre-Henry Ford” assembly-line factory, accord to Richland Source’s reporting in 2018.
“Here, everyone can do anything. These people are true artists, trained artists. It’s like a turn-of-the-century craft shop. I mean, I don’t even care if you can read, as long as you can carve,” he said.
The company’s most recent project was the Greensboro Rotary Carousel at the Greensboro Science Center in North Carolina. It made 56 animals and finished the assembly at the end of 2019. According to local media reporting, some designs were inspired by the endangered species at the science center.
The company designed and made the carousel for the Richland Carrousel Park in 1991. The 30 horses and 22 bears, cats, rabbits and other animals were carved in G.A. Dentzel’s style. Dentzel was one of the most revered carvers in the early 1900s.
Sharon Bishop, director for the Carrousel Park, said many people were impressed with the animals and always asked who made them. She told them to contact Carousel Works and see if they can get a tour.
Bishop said the company did various works for different institutions. It built carousels for cruise ships and made animals for children’s hospitals.
The failure was a great loss to the carousel community, especially because many talented woodcarvers and artists worked there.
“Very sad, shame. It was a local. It was important for people all over the world. And they were right here in our hometown, so that makes it doubly sad,” Bishop said.
Todd Goings, owner and president of Carousels and Carvings, said when a major company like Carousel Works falls on a hard time, it's hard for the small and specific carousel industry. Goings worked at Carousel Works in the early 1990s and now operating his business in Marion.
He said he hopes it is not a sign of the industry’s general health.
Carousel Works spread wooden carousel’s magic over 30 years. It also brought Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel to life. The carousel was built in 1910 for the park. Angie Lowrie, director of the Cleveland History Center, said a group of community members and civic leaders in Cleveland saved the carousel from an auction in the 1990s and presented it to the Western Reserve Historical Society.
After years of fundraising and restoration, the carousel was reopened to the public in 2014 at the Cleveland History Center. Lowrie said it was an emotional and celebratory moment. Many people who grew up in the area still remembered going to the carousel at Euclid Beach Park in their childhood.
Lowrie said Carousel Works did a complete restoration and rebuilt the mechanism. Among the 58 animals, 54 were original. The company also added details in the new design, including historic views of Cleveland and paintings of Euclid Beach Park’s attractions.
“Their passion for their work certainly comes through. And they have attention to detail. From my perspective, they were wonderful to work with. I have nothing but positive things to say about them,” Lowrie said.
Since the reopening, the carousel once again became a landmark. Lowrie said people have proposed there or celebrated their wedding anniversary. There was a special ride for a terminal patient at the hospital across the street from the history center. It was one of the patient’s last wishes.