Most everyone has seen the old black cast iron cookware lying around. Maybe in your Grandmother’s kitchen, in a thrift store or at a yard sale. Or more recently, maybe you have seen it at Macy’s or William Sonoma. It’s not surprising. Lodge Cast Iron Cookware has been around for 121 years. With all the new fangle cookware out today, you’d think cast iron cookware would be passé. Not so. Not only is Lodge cookware still widely in use today, they are building a new foundry to keep up with the demand, but I’m getting a little ahead of my self.
In 1896, Joseph Lodge and his with settled in South Pittsburg,Tennessee. He built and named his first foundry, Blacklock Foundry after his minister friend and started making shoe lasts (metal forms to insert into shoes to hold their shape when not being worn), sinks, teakettles and grates. Unfortunately, it burnt down in 1910. Lodge was not thwarted but such a small setback like a devastating fire. Three months later, he just built another foundry a few blocks away which he named Lodge Manufacturing Co., which is still in operation today. Makes me wonder how nice it must have been to build a foundry in three months without crippling government restrictions and red tape. Oh, but I digress…
Both the current CEO and Board Chairman are great grandsons of Joseph Lodge and have stated that what has helped them survive competitors and hard times, are their commitments to quality, staying on top of new technology, and a commitment to their employees.
Indeed, in the hard times of the 1930’s, the company produced garden knick-knacks like gnomes and animals to keep the foundry open and paychecks flowing to their employees.
By the 1950”s, the company had rebounded so well, they were able to change up their process from hand pouring to automated pouring. This was not only more efficient and safer, it helped them meet the increased demand.
Lodge also has a keen interest in the environment, recycling 250 tons of sand every year by coordinating with their county to use the sand for various projects. In 1992, they changed from coal fired cupola furnaces to a electro magnetic induction melting system, earning them a award for excellence in hazardous waste reduction. They allow outside companies to come in to pick up and recycle their cardboard, recycling as much as 148 tons every year.
And then there are the employees. I always admire companies who offer profit sharing and Lodge is one of them. They highlight an employee of the month and post it on their website with a short Bio. I searched the internet, hunting for disgruntled former employee posts but didn’t find any although I’m sure there may be one or two out there.
The company continues to innovate. In 2002, they stared to preseason their cookware at the factory and as of 2007, every piece leaving the foundry is preseasoned making it ready to use right out of the box. It had previously been dipped in a vat of wax to protect it during shipping.
In 2005, they came out with their enameled cast iron cookware and in 2013, their Season Carbon Steel line.
By 2014, the demand for their cookware exceeded their production……..again. Plans were laid out for a new foundry as well as a distribution center. Ground was broken in 2016. The new foundry, being built just yards from the original one, is due to be completed fall/winter of this year. It will provide more equipment, boosting production by 75% and 92 more AMERICAN jobs (emphasis mine).
If all this isn’t enough, I have one more thing to add, and that is their commitment to their community. Every year they produce a special skillet and sell it as a fundraiser. In 2016, Lodge partnered with Dolly Pardon’s Dollywood Foundation, My People Fund, and donated over $110,000 through the sales of their special production skillets. That year, the money was donated to families that had been affected by the wildfires in Tennessee.
Lodge has a great website (where I obtained most of my information). You can take a video tour of their foundry, actually watching how they make their cookware, watch a time-lapse video of the new foundry being built, read employee bio’s, watch videos on how to cook with their products, how to restore old ones or read their recipes for one dish meals. It’s obvious they want you to love their products as much as they do.
You can find Lodge Cast Iron Cook Ware at the following places: