Ohio City manufacturer bucks housing trend

The Kowalski Heat Treating Co. is a manufacturing outlier in the
booming Detroit Avenue residential corridor in Cleveland’s Ohio
City neighborhood (Google).(CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

A stretch of Detroit Avenue in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, once known as Mariners’ Row for its many boat dealers and boating stores, is quickly becoming home to a number of mid-rise apartment buildings. From The Quarter, Federal Knitting Mills, Mariner’s Watch, Edge 32, to the latest and largest project yet — Church + State — more than a dozen blocks of Detroit Avenue next to the West Shoreway (now Edgewater Parkway) are lined with apartment buildings from four to 11 stories tall.

A notable exception is a holdout manufacturer, Kowalski Heat Treating Co., that has grown from 3,000 square feet to 83,000 square feet during its 44 years, adding nearly 23,000 square feet just in the past week.

A source said owner and President Steve Kowalski had secretly been looking to move to larger quarters in a business park elsewhere in Cleveland but the deal fell through. If so, it makes sense that Kowalski may stay put because his metalworking equipment is expensive to move. But the source said it is possible that Kowalski’s latest acquisition might be for storage in the short term. In the long term, he could still sell his entire property to a developer and relocate his operation which employs about three dozen people.

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Prior to 5 p.m. March 22, Kowalski had not returned two voicemails and an e-mail seeking clarification for this article. A woman who answered the phone earlier that day at Kowalski Heat Treating said the company wasn’t planning on moving.

There are other indications that Kowalski Heat Treating will keep expanding to increase production of treated metal products and continue bucking the trend of an increasingly residential Detroit corridor overlooking Lake Erie and Whiskey Island.

To the right of the new Edge 32 apartments is the former head-
quarters and plant of Conveyer & Caster that was bought on
March 18 by Kowalski Heat Treating. Conveyer & Caster
moved out to Westlake and Kowalski moved in (Google).

On March 18, a corporation owned by Stephen G. Kowalski of Bay Village closed on the purchase of 0.83 acres that belonged to The Storefront Ltd. (doing business as Conveyer & Caster Inc.), 3501 Detroit Ave. Storefront is named after the Stohr family who founded Conveyer & Caster in 1961 and continues to run it today. The land and four buildings, including a house on Clinton Avenue, were valued in 2018 by Cuyahoga County at?$719,400 for tax purposes.

The purchase amount is not publicly available. However, SGK Development Co. and KMJC Properties LLC, both owned by Kowalski, secured two $1.44 million mortgages from The Storefront Ltd. which also acted as lender, according to documents filed with the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer.

SGK Development is the firm that owns most of the 1.16 acres on which Kowalski Heat Treating had been operating. Its mortgage pertains to the parcels in those 1.16 acres. KMJC Properties was formed in January as part of Kowalski’s efforts to acquire the neighboring Conveyer & Caster site.

Conveyer & Caster moved its offices, manufacturing plant and roughly 30-40 employees on March 1 to a 75,000-square-foot building it renovated at 29570 Clemens Rd. in Westlake. KMJC Properties’ mortgage pertains to the parcels in the 0.83 acres that Kowalski acquired March 18.

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It isn’t known for what purpose Kowalski will use or has used the $2.88 million in loans. But it appears that one loan was used to acquire the Conveyer & Caster site and the other to possibly improve, replace or add equipment owned by Kowalski Heat Treating.

Stephen G. Kowalski, owner and president of Kowalski Heat
Treating, now has a significant presence on the Detroit Avenue
corridor that stands out along the West Shoreway (Google/KJP).

Kowalski Heat Treating has been expanding ever since the company was founded by Steve Kowalski’s father Robert in 1975. The company’s previous expansion before last week was in 2014 when it acquired Kennick Mold & Die, 3601 Detroit, for what Kowalski calls Plant 6. That acquisition brought the six-building site up to 60,000 square feet.

In 2002, according to Crain’s Cleveland Business, Kowalski invested $2.5 million to refurbish its then-18,000-square-foot site and add 10,000 square feet of space to it. The article noted that Kowalski said he had no thoughts of relocating the company because many of his employees lived in Cleveland.

“We love this area,” Kowalski told Crain’s 17 years ago. “This location is ideally suited for our business. We didn’t do this (refurbishment of the building) for the short term.”

Ironically, back in 2002, Kowalski also said he doubted the ability of the Detroit corridor to support more shops and housing. Yet, the neighborhood continues to boom with the addition of more shops and housing — and a growing manufacturing plant.

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