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Saving businesses we love

I’m not a big collector (except of books), but there are some things I like enough to have more of than the average person. Fiesta Tableware is one of them. I love the colors, sure, but I also like that they were made for decades by the Homer Laughlin China Company, right here in West Virginia.

I’ve written before about my grandmothers not being the types to sit around waiting for someone else to get a job done. Well, if my memory of stories heard during childhood is correct, one of my grandmothers left her family farm in Wetzel County in her 20s, to go work for Homer Laughlin China. I imagine for her, in the 1940s, it was the equivalent of my own decision to move to New Jersey and work in New York City — maybe even more jarring.

So for a long time now, I have been a dish flipper. If I sit down at a table that is already set, I (subtly, I think) peek under to see the stamp on the back of the dishes. It may seem silly, but if I see Homer Laughlin back there, I feel a little better about where ever I’m eating.

Of course, Gran didn’t work on Fiesta. But, I still like the idea of having something produced by a company where she worked.

And I just like the way they look. Even in the disorganized stacks that pass for a display in my dining room, they’re still just fun to look at.

I have friends who are more … dedicated … collectors than I am. Even if my assortment will never measure up to their collections, it is fun to have that common interest, too.

That is why, when I saw the news of changes happening at Fiesta, I knew exactly who I needed to tell.

Homer Laughlin China Company had already sold off its food service businesses and the Homer Laughlin and Hall China brand names. That left Fiesta Tableware Company standing on its own. But soon after the separation came news the “temporary cessation of manufacturing on March 24 due to COVID-19 has necessitated the issue of the WARN notice,” according to a release sent out by the company.

In fact, they may have to lay off — and may never be able to rehire — as many as one-third of their employees.

When I told one of my collector friends, she said, “I told (husband) I needed to buy more!”

He chimed in, “We can’t save them, (wife).”

Well, maybe two or three of us can’t save them. But they are worth the try.

They’re not alone, either. What this virus has done to businesses big and small is nauseating.

Those of us who are able are going to have to make an effort to save the beloved businesses that fill places in our memories and our homes in a way the big guys just can’t. Some of them have been around for generations. Some are just getting started. If they’ve made it this far through the economic turmoil of the past couple of months, they are going to be struggling by the time we are in a position to help them, but we do have to try.

It is the job that needs to get done.

Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at cmyer@newsandsentinel.com

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