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Published: 7/14/2003

Victorian era isn't over for small firm

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Misty Miller assembles a clock that when finished, will head for Toronto's Hyde Park. The company is enjoying the renewed popularity of  items  from the  Victorian-era.
  Misty Miller assembles a clock that when finished, will head for Toronto's Hyde Park. The company is enjoying the renewed popularity of items from the Victorian-era.
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FINDLAY — It may be the new millennium, but a small Hancock County firm is finding there's a profit to be made by living in the past. That line of work also has resulted in a link to Hollywood.

Victorian Marketplace, Am-Dia, Inc., about 10 miles northeast of Findlay, makes and sells an array of cast-aluminum items designed to complement Victorian-style architecture.

Products include street lamps, mailboxes, statues, bird baths, fountains, outdoor clocks, wall sconces, garden furniture, carousel horses, and other one-of-a kind pieces.

A tiny family-owned firm until two years ago, the company started to get noticed and take off in the last year.

One of its products — a donut-shaped bench that surrounds a tree — will be displayed on STYLE? Outer Spaces, a show premiering on Home and Garden TV this fall. The firm recently supplied a film production company with four plant brackets to provide a spooky Victorian-style look to the mansion in Disney's The Haunted Mansion, a film starring Eddie Murphy to be released in December.

‘‘Most of what we sell is the lighting,'' said Robin Miller, the company's general manager. ‘‘We haven't done a lot of advertising. Basically our business is through word of mouth and though Victorian Homes magazine,'' Ms. Miller said.

The company was started 10 years ago by her father, Mel Brooks of Arcadia, Ohio. ‘‘He loved antiques. He was dealing in antiques since he was a kid,'' Ms. Miller said.

Mr. Brooks and another worker ran the firm until about three years ago, when health problems forced him to turn the business over to family members. He died in 2001.

Ms. Miller quit her job as a registered nurse last year to become the company's general manager and her mother, Betty Brooks, took over company ownership. Two other family members and another employee help with welding, shipping, and various aspects.

Victorian Marketplace increased its advertising budget this year and is developing a new Web site. It had about $500,000 in sales last year.

‘‘There's other companies that do this work commercially, but they're so much more expensive than we are,' Ms. Miller said.

Decorative street lamps cost $300 to $500, depending on height and the number of lights on them. Ornamental fountains cost $600 to $1,300 depending on size. One of its fountains was featured in the film Stuart Little 2.

It sells to a small group of dealers as well as to individual customers. Of late, the tiny firm has been busy readying an order for Garrett, Ind., which ordered 40 turn-of-the-century street lamps as part of a $100,000 downtown improvement project.

Sandra Arvin, director of the Garrett Chamber of Commerce, said the firm was willing to custom-make lamps to keep with the town's past. Such restorations and renewed interest in the Victorian era gives the company a good outlook. ‘‘Things are starting to pick up,” Ms. Miller said.

Small Business Profile is a weekly feature on local companies. To be considered, send information about your company to Small Business Profiles, Business News, The Blade, P.O. Box 921, Toledo, Ohio 43697-0921.



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