Forrest Manufacturing 2021 75 years in business
In 2021, Forrest Manufacturing Company, marked 75 years in business manufacturing carbide tipped circular saw blades. This is a very brief history of the company that our customers may find of interest.
Company Founder, Albert Walter Forrest
The company was started by Albert Walter Forrest. He was born in 1902 in Pennsylvania, one of three children. He led quite an adventurous life. He was a cowboy, a prize fighter, prospected for gold, and later, a banker, an accountant, and finally a business owner.
He eventually settled in California and worked for a bank, where he met his future wife Ethelwyn Doig, aka Jay. Jay was a kindred spirit to Walter in that she was an adventurer herself. She grew up in Rutherford, NJ., before leaving for California. She traveled unchaperoned by train to California. Traveling unaccompanied as she did was unheard of at the time for a young lady. Jay worked as a teller in the same bank as Walter.
They married and had their only child, James E., in 1928, born in Burbank, California. When James was two the family left California and settled back in New Jersey. Walter then left his wife and son in New Jersey to go to Panama to start a coffee plantation in the hills above the Panama Canal. After several years of hard work to get the business off the ground, Walter sent for his family. They traveled by steamship to join him in Panama.
It normally takes about five years before coffee can be harvested. During this time, Walter began operating a small sawmill, cutting lumber, to help make ends meet while waiting for the first coffee harvest. All of this was during The Great Depression that was rippling through the world economies. One year away from their first harvest, the banks called in his notes. With no way to immediately raise cash to pay his loan, Walter was forced to sell all his holdings for pennies on the dollar.
The family returned to Rutherford, NJ, in 1934. For a time, Walter worked as a night security guard at Abraham & Strauss department store in New York city. In the time leading up to World War II, as the United States rearmed and became the arsenal of the European allies, Walter worked for Dupont Powdered Metals Division in Kearny, NJ., as a buyer. One of the items he was responsible for purchasing was a nozzle used in producing powdered metals. Molten metals were sprayed out as fine droplets at the top of a settling silo. As the droplets cooled to a solid, they would settle to the bottom of the silo as a powder.
Walter saw a business opportunity. He asked his supervisor if he would be allowed to supply these nozzles to Dupont at a better price. He was given permission to do so. James, at the age of fourteen worked for Walter turning these nozzles out on a small lathe, that is still used occasionally at the shop to this day.
After the war the business changed. There was a need for sharpening and servicing all kinds of cutting tools in the greater Newark area. Carbide tooling was being introduced from Europe.
A.W. Forrest Manufacturing Company, Inc. founded in 1946
On March 15,1946 Albert Walter Forrest incorporated the A. W. Forrest Manufacturing Company Inc., later to be known as Forrest Manufacturing Co.. During this time Walter Forrest had one employee and James E. his son worked with him as well when he wasn’t in high school. Walter’s business location was originally in Rutherford.
Walter had an untimely death at the age of 50. He died in 1952 leaving his wife Jay as the sole owner to run the shop. Jay hired Shelby “Bill” Dimmick to manage the company since her son James, 24, was in the army stationed in Trieste at the border of Yugoslavia and Italy. James was honorably discharged to come home due to his father's death. James did not initially work in the business. He attended Milwaukee Bible College in Wisconsin. While in Wisconsin, James met his future wife, Lois. Their first-born son, Jim, was born while they lived in Milwaukee. Their second son Dan was born while they lived in Gary IN. James and Lois left the Midwest for New Jersey around 1962 to help in the family business. Soon after their son Jay, named after his grandmother, was born, and following that a long-awaited daughter, Lynn.
Second Generation Owner, James Forrest
James started working in the business in 1963 alongside his mother. Prior to James returning to NJ the business was slowly growing and moved to a larger facility where the present Meadowlands football stadium is located.
The next big move came when the business moved across the Passaic River to Delawanna Ave., Clifton because construction of the Meadowlands racetrack and football stadium had begun. The company, up until this point in time, was an industrial saw blade manufacturer, marketing its products to other businesses. Then an opportunity arose.
The company was approached to develop new products to promote at woodworking shows around the country. From these shows starting in the 70’s, the Woodworker I and then the Woodworker II were developed for the woodworking market. The company experienced rapid growth. James became well known around the country in the woodworking community. He demonstrated and sold saw blades at various woodworking shows throughout the US. These woodworking shows opened a whole new market.
In addition to servicing industrial markets such as plastics, picture frames, and pasta cutting blades we were now able to meet the needs of the woodworking community. At the same time the company invested in new equipment. CNC grinders took the place of manual grinders. The company invested heavily in state-of-the-art German automatic grinders.
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s the company rapidly grew to 40 plus employees. After graduating college in the summer of 1986 Jay came on board with the company full time. In 1987, Jim, the oldest son, started working for the company full time. During that time Dan and Lynn worked there as well on and off. In 1989 Forrest Manufacturing moved to its present facility in Clifton.
In the early 2000’s, the company started investing in robotic machines starting with an automatic brazing machine with a loader. This allowed the company to produce more blades with the same number of employees. It was also around that time that the company stopped being a part of the woodworking shows. Our ever-growing network of distributors and the advent of the internet made the woodworking shows no longer viable for the company.
For over 40 years James Forrest was the president of the company. His wife Lois worked there as well in the office for many years. In 2008 James passed away. His wife Lois predeceased him in 1997.
Third Generation Owners, Jim and Jay Forrest
A few years later The Great Recession took hold. It was an extremely challenging time for many businesses including Forrest Manufacturing. It was filled with many difficult decisions. The company had no choice but to downsize significantly. Capital investments had to be put off, reserves were depleted, and it felt like a lost decade.
The company has survived to the present day, still filling the needs of its customers. Jim and Jay are third generation owners of the company Forrest Manufacturing still maintains the consistent commitment to quality and customer service that was the hallmark of Walter Forrest 75 years ago. At present Forrest Manufacturing employs over 20 employees including fourth generation children.