From misfortune to fortunate

In April of 1974 a series of tornadoes ripped through Ohio, the worst outbreak that area had ever seen. It was fortunate that Ron Kirsch Sr. wasn’t home at the time; his house was totaled, as he describes it. He decided to quit his job and work on fixing his house, but he soon found a new job with King Bag & Manufacturing Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

“I’d done almost all accounting work, [but] I got divorced, and my house blew away, so I thought I’d change my occupation,” he says. “At that time I was the only salesperson. I enjoyed it; it was a lot more diverse.”

He bought into the company in 1984 while his son, Ron Jr., was serving in the army in Germany. When Ron Jr.’s tour of duty was up a year later, he was willing to consider his dad’s business, but working for “a sewing company” was not what he had in mind. He thought it was “somewhat embarrassing,” he says, coming from military service. “[But] once I started here, it was just so interesting. I wound up really liking it.” 

The Kirsch’s bought the company outright in 2002 and turned their attention to product line expansion. “You have to pay attention to being diversified and be open to new opportunities,” Ron Jr. says.  The company fills a specific niche in custom and large sizes, serving customers who “need something, but they only need a few of them.” Ron Jr.’s area of expertise is more in the designing and manufacturing end. He is now the company’s vice president.  

“I work for a sewing company and we make a thousand different products, and you’ll never guess one of them,” Ron Sr. says. “One of the big things is our customer service. So often you call people and request a quote and they just don’t get back to you. We don’t allow that; 99 percent of the time it’s a same day response. I think that drives a lot of people our way.” 

Not quite a hobby farm

Ron Sr. says he isn’t as involved in the business now, so he has more time for looking after the 88 acres father and son share. “Anytime he leaves his house, he has to go past mine,” Ron Jr. jokes. “I got my eye on him.” 

“I spend the summer cutting the grass,” Ron Sr. says. “We’ve got a lot of grass and big gardens, [including] 33 fruit trees. And we sort of compete growing tomatoes. He has horses and chickens. I’ve got cats. It’s not a hobby farm but it’s getting there.”

“We dabble in everything,” Ron Jr. says. “Beehives, chickens, a little bit of this and that,” which can be relaxing, he says, “if I’ve got nothing to do.” His wife shows in the American Quarter Horse Association circuit, but he claims he’s “just the stall boy.” When they can get away from the responsibilities of work and home, they enjoy long weekends boating and water skiing on Cumberland Lake. 

The IFAI connection

The Kirsch’s have a long history with IFAI. “It’s a good place to find vendors—sources of supply for a lot of things we make,” Ron Jr. says, “and to see what’s new out there, so we can recommend things to our customers. A lot of customers come to us with a problem and we find a solution for it.” They are regular attendees at Expo Americas. “A lot of vendors you never see except at the IFAI show. It’s a good face-to-face opportunity, too,” he says.  

By Janet Preus, editor, Specialty Fabrics Review