* Article originally published in the May 2019 Edition of Accent Magazine (a publication of the Observer-Dispatch & Gatehouse Media).
By: Nichole Grant
Have you ever flipped your fork over to see where it was made? If the flatware was purchased in the last ten years, chances are it says made in China or another country overseas. It wasn’t always this way. Once there were several flatware manufacturing companies in the United States, but now there is only one. Sherrill Manufacturing is the only flatware manufacturer in the country and it’s located in Sherrill, N.Y.
Co-Owners Greg Owens and Matt Roberts purchased Oneida Limited’s factory in 2005, after the company decided to move production to Asia. Owens and Roberts worked for Oneida Limited and understood the manufacturing processes. During this time, the future of flatware manufacturing in the U.S. was uncertain and Roberts was concerned.
“We thought that if the factory closed it was going to be bulldozed, scrapped and there would never be flatware made here again.” That’s when the crazy idea to purchase the flatware factory was born. “I called Greg and asked him if he was willing to join forces and give it a try,” said Roberts.
It all started with a blank sheet of paper. The two created Sherrill Manufacturing and the new company set out to solve all the issues that were previously beset the factory, but they were still faced with a number of challenges. According to Owens, “on the operations side Matt needed to take a factory that was designed to make a million pieces a day in mass production environment with a full staff of engineers and produce a fraction of that with him and a bunch of other dedicated flatware makers and, a bunch being eleven people in a factory that was designed to employ 2,300.”
The challenge brought a new way of thinking and marketing.
“We had to develop our own version of the business to customer model and married that with the concept that we were the only flatware company left in the United States and that’s sort of been our formula for success,” said Owens.
As far as marketing, Owens also faced a challenge in selling the flatware. “I had to figure out how to sell flatware to people in the U.S. who had no idea that we existed.”
By 2011, all business ties with the former Oneida Company came to an end and Sherrill Manufacturing was able to create a new business model that included restarting a government contract, OEM Production for Cutco Corporation and a new venture, a website called Liberty Tabletop.com.
Liberty Tabletop offers 30 flatware patterns ranging from traditional to modern as well as affinity designs. The affinity patterns have helped the company to grow offering more creative designs. Current affinity patterns include Calavera, Celtic, Woodstock, Old Harbor, Flame and the newest addition called Earth.
The Earth pattern is very special to Liberty Tabletop as the company supports the preservation of a clean and safe environment. In fact, the Sherrill Manufacturing factory is powered by hydroelectricity from Niagara Falls. No harsh chemicals are used in the manufacturing process and all raw materials are sourced from American suppliers.
To further their commitment to preserving the environment, Liberty Tabletop has partnered with One Tree Planted, a non profit organization focused on planting trees around the world. Through the partnership Liberty Tabletop will donate $1 to plant one tree for every Earth flatware set purchased.
Liberty Tabletop flatware pieces are very strong and weigh more than average sets found in big box stores. This is because Liberty Tabletop flatware is made from 18/10 stainless steel, which is sourced from Ohio and Pennsylvania. The numbers 18/10 refers to the percentage of chromium and nickel in the stainless steel. The “18” refers to the chromium content which gives the flatware its rust resistant properties and the “10” refers to the nickel content giving the flatware silver like shine.
Traditionally, flatware is something that people like to shop for in person and Owens admits that this can be a bit of challenge for Liberty Tabletop. However, the company is responding by designing the ultimate online shopping experience. Through the samples program, customers can order up to three different designs for $8 and use them in the comfort of their own kitchen. Owens says if that doesn’t help to ease buyer’s remorse the company’s money-back guarantee on all Liberty Tabletop purchases should.
Sherrill Manufacturing and its brand Liberty Tabletop is family run. With this in mind, the company has the ability to do what they know is best for their business at any time. According to Roberts, “We’re not afraid to try new things and were also very flexible and can change direction quickly.”
With five new designs being released this year, including Earth, the company is well on its way to success. “We’re going to continue to build the brand and continue to look for creative ways, or disruptive ways to participate in what is otherwise a very boring, stodgy marketplace for flatware,” said Owens.
Owens wants customers to know that when they choose to purchase a Liberty Tabletop product, they’re not only supporting the business but everyone whose apart of it.
“When you buy product from us, you’re supporting the people that actually make it, market it, and sell it; The people who are in our factory and office and our partners right here in the United States,” said Roberts.
Going forward Sherrill Manufacturing and Liberty Tabletop are continuing the flatware making tradition in Sherrill, also known as the “Silver City.”
“This past year was our best ever and I think the sky is the limit for Sherrill Manufacturing and Liberty Tabletop. We haven’t even started to blossom yet,” said Owens.