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After a hundred years, doors are still opening for Jamison

February 28, 2006|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN

andrews@herald-mail.com

Move over, HBP.

Make room, Beachley Furniture Co. and The Cavetown Planing Mill Co.

Today, the 100-year-old club for Washington County businesses has a new inductee: Jamison Door Co. in Hagerstown.

On Feb. 28, 1906, J.V. Jamison Sr. and R.E. Jones incorporated their company under the name Jones Cold Storage Door Co. (One company history suggests there was a third founder, named Dr. Elgin.)

Jamison later took over the company, which manufactures doors for businesses that store products in cold temperatures.

"We make the doors that keep the frozen areas at appropriate temperatures and the refrigerated areas at appropriate temperatures," John T. Williams, Jamison Door Co.'s chairman, said Monday.

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According to Bob Gause, a district manager, customers in Washington County include Expedited Services and Good Humor-Breyers Ice Cream in Hagerstown, Save-A-Lot Foods near Williamsport and Wantz Distributors near Hagerstown.

In Pennsylvania, the company's doors are at the Food Lion Distribution Center in Greencastle, Chambersburg Cold Storage in Chambersburg and Schreiber Foods in Shippensburg.

Another product line - doors that muffle sound - makes up about 4 percent of Jamison's business, Williams said.

Those can be found at theaters, broadcast studios and jet testing facilities across the country. Volvo Powertrain has at least one at its plant north of Hagerstown.

Jamison Door purchased HCR Inc. of Lewistown, Mont., in 2004.

HCR makes a system in which air is blown across an open door frame in a way that maintains the temperature in the rooms on either side, creating an "air seal."

Williams said the system is used in high-traffic operations, where it would be impractical to constantly open and close a door.

About a year ago, Jamison opened a small manufacturing plant in Mexico to produce some of its lowest-priced doors. Most of those doors are sold in the United States.

Williams said Jamison hopes to expand its sales in Mexico, "as their economy improves and they eat more ice cream."

Jamison has about 140 employees, of which about 100 have union jobs, he said.

Williams came to Jamison in 2000 with a background in accounting and media operations.

He lives in Baltimore and stays in Washington County a few days a week. For his first four years as chairman, he commuted one week a month from Florida.

His daughter is married to Matthew W. Wyskiel, vice chairman of Jamison's board and a descendant of the namesake family.

Williams said Jamison has about 60 percent of the "rigid door" market - a diminishing market over the last 20 years, in part due to other companies' innovations.

A company called Rytec came up with a door of hanging plastic strips that are heated to prevent them from freezing.

Another company devised a door that looks like a mattress and withstands crashes that might damage rigid doors.

Williams said Jamison has adapted and now offers similar products.

"The challenge," he said, "is also to be here for the second 100 years."

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