Eldred Gray

My high school self spent summers working at the family company that my dad took over and eventually shut down to a small (tiny) consulting business.  The Eldred Company was created by my great grandfather to design and create efficient machines for the glass industry.  Our family called it 'the shop'.  And at the shop they would create machines that added the perfectly placed paint on Pyrex measuring cups. They would add the bead of glass around the rim of cups so that you didn't go all Julia Child with a 'mere flesh wound' cut with every sip.

I guess that's cool. I was young and was the shop's 1 (only) woman, bathroom cleaner, grass cutter, tree trimmer, phone answerer, metal scrap sweeper, part painter, catch all.  

At the time, I felt bored.  I dreaded waking up early and driving to work with my dad and then staying late.  I remember the hours when my work was done but my dad's wasn't.  I passed the time lazily spinning in the dirt ridden office swivel chair watching my evenings slip by in a 50s style shop on the South side of Columbus. 

It turns out that a high school girl can learn a lot from a machine shop on the South side.  Even if she doesn't realize it at the time. 

1.  Doughnuts do make things better.  Emotional eating, high cholesterol, sugar fix, no nutritional value aside doughnuts actually deliver a swift morale boost.  On Fridays we would stop at Jolly Pirate Doughnuts on the way to work and order up a dozen(ish) sweet round sprinkle dough balls of goodness.    People love getting treats- even (especially) adult people. 

2. Learn from people around you.  Ez was the most punctual efficient gentleman I have ever met and I was assigned to be his assistant working on parts.  He started the company with my great grandfather and closed it with my dad.  He said 'slick 'em' instead of oil and pronounced  aluminum like al-ja-min... just like how it's spelled. Ez taught me about taking the job seriously and a few things about the machines.  Although,  I wish I would have learned more from Ez- but my summer brain didn't retain all that much.  

3.  Efficiency matters (to me).  I discovered that I wanted to do the job not fill the time.  If I could find a quicker way to do the job just as well, I wanted to do it that way.  I wanted to work hard, manage my own time, and prioritize my own projects.  It was the first sign that I wanted my own sandbox to play within.  I'm best when someone tells me the boundaries and the goals and then steps back and let's me figure it out.

4. They still make Lava soap.  While at the shop, my role was to paint each part "Eldred Gray" before it was put to work at it's final destination on the machine.  There were always parts to paint.  My skincare routine consisted of scrubbing with Lava soap and rinsing with Mineral Spirits. I think both products have age defying properties :)

5.  Marketing 101: Eldred Gray paint builds a brand.  Once a company discovers its branding icons, they become staples.  The kind of thing that you don't ever deviate from.  The kind of thing that you put on every single piece of your product.  It stands for something.  Eldred Gray paint color was our thing at the shop- every single part that went into the whole was painted Eldred Gray.  Period.

6.  Find your people.  During the difficult years at the shop when it began it's decline, my dad worked really long hours.  I saw him work though difficult leadership issues.  He took over the company from his father, who still maintained his office but with dementia starting to set in his sole responsibility soon became checking the mail.  My dad had one person to work through company dynamics with- Rolland.  Rolland was smart and an advocate for him.  He needed that.  For my dad, Rolland was his 'people'.  Wherever I am in life, I've always sought out my people.  

More on what I learned at Eldred later.... this blog post is long enough. 


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