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Strait keeps his business all in the family

February 21, 2001

Strait keeps his business all in the family



By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro
Dallas Strait

Above: Dallas Strait, the owner of Strait Manufacturing and Welding Inc., poses in front of some photographs of buildings on which his firn has done steel fabrication work.

Below: Earth moving equipment clears land along U.S. 11 north of Greencastle for the company's new 135,000-square-foot manufacturing plant.

Photos:

KEVIN G. GILBERT

staff photographer

Construction



GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The photograph of Dallas Strait's family that hangs on a wall near the entrance to Strait Manufacturing and Welding Inc., tells as much about the company as it does the Strait family.

Strait's two sons and two sons-in-law work for the company. He hopes that one day some of his 10 grandchildren will come on board.

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There soon should be plenty of room for any of the offspring. Strait is building a 135,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and 10,000 square-feet of new office space. Site work is under way on 35 acres two miles north of Greencastle on U.S. 11.

Strait, 69, started the company that bears his name in a 60-by-80-foot building on a dead-end street off South Carlisle Street in 1969. Before that, he ran Strait's Welding Service, a home-based operation, out of a 20-by-20-foot tin shed behind his Greencastle home.

Strait learned the welder's trade working at the Fairchild Aircraft plant in Hagerstown. He grew up in Fulton County, Pa., quit school to join the Army in 1948, and saw combat in the Korean War.

"I was married and I needed a job, so I went to work at Fairchild from 1952 to 1960. I kept getting laid off. I couldn't afford to keep doing that with four kids, so I bought an old pickup truck for $350 and a portable welding machine on time and went into business for myself. I don't know if I loved it or not, but I was good at welding."

He bought an electric-arc welding machine that could handle aluminum and began doing subcontracting work for Fairchild and Marine Electronics, also in Hagerstown. He never seemed to stop working. Besides the subcontracting work for the Hagerstown companies, he did welding for area construction and gas-line projects, held down a full-time night job at a steel-fabricating plant in York, Pa., and worked weekends in his home-welding service business.

"We worked nights on the weekends," he said. "My wife would put the kids to bed then come in and help with the preheat work and painting while I did the welding."

When the business outgrew the backyard shop, he opened the factory off South Carlisle Street. His first employee there was his son-in-law, Larry Crouse, who drafted shop drawings and worked in the shop. Two more workers were hired in the next three years.

Today, Strait Manufacturing and Welding has 55 workers.

The company fabricates structural steel for commercial and industrial buildings. It supplied the steel for the Citicorp building north of Hagerstown, the Food Lion distribution warehouse in Greencastle, the Quad Graphics printing plant in Berkeley County, W.Va., the Johns Hopkins University Cancer Center in Baltimore and the Owings Mills Town Center in Owings Mills, Md.

"I'm expanding for two reasons," Strait said. "I need more space to fabricate steel and I'm hoping to make room for my grandchildren to come into the business."

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