LOUDONVILLE -- After Loudonville's Flxible Company closed in 1996, there have been few opportunities for former employees and their families to visit the area's longtime bus manufacturer.
Last Friday afternoon was one of those rare occasions. For the second time since acquiring the property in 2016, building owner Joseph Shrock welcomed the public to come by the 357,092 square-foot space for an open house and tours.
"We understand that building is important to the community, and Joseph cares enough about the community that he wants to share it with everyone, with the folks that worked there and the folks that had family there," said Lisa Christine, administrator for Shrock's businesses. "Former companies may have been uncomfortable with opening up their buildings for the public, but to Joseph it's more important to share it with folks."
Shrock operates a handful of businesses in the Loudonville area, including three based out of the former Flxible Company building at 537 N Market St. These are Shrock Prefab LLC, Shrock Premier Custom Construction and Shrock Restoration - Rainbow International of North Central Ohio.
On Friday afternoon, an estimated 200 people visited the plant, which is typically abuzz with about 50 workers -- most, if not all of them, are Amish or Mennonite.
All the visitors had the opportunity to tour the space, some with longtime building security guard Carmen Purdy. She began working at the building in 1981, before Flxible closed. She stayed until 1993 when she "saw the writing on the wall," but later came back to patrol the building for new owner, including Shrock.
"He's a very good man to work for. Very fair. He treats his people good," Purdy said.
While driving around on a golf cart, Purdy pointed out how Shrock had replaced 1,200 light fixtures with LED lights and remodeled at least one space on the second floor.
Near the entrance, representatives of The Cleo Redd Fisher Museum were available to speak to the history of the building. They brought along a few photos of the former Flxible Company, too.
"We've been blessed to have their involvement," Christine said. "They bring pictures and have them organized so that they can pair the name of a relative with a picture.
"Then, all of a sudden, they are seeing a picture of great grandfather as a teenager."
The future of the tours hasn't been determined yet, but Christine anticipates there will be further opportunities to visit the building in the future.