Sandusky Family Factory Makes Ovens for Eateries Around the World
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By TOM JACKSON
SANDUSKY, OHIO June 2009 -- If you’ve munched an enchilada at a Mexican restaurant in Texas or stuffed a slice of pizza in your mouth in Colorado, you may have eaten food prepared in an oven made in Sandusky.
|Bryan Huntley, fourth generation of the family that owns Peerless Stove, poses next to an electric pizza oven made by the Sandusky company, which is marking 90 years in business this year. Register photo/ DREW ANGERER|
Peerless Ovens is a small, family owned factory that produces ovens and ships them across the nation. Its owner, Bryan Huntley, bought the business in 1998 from his parents, who had acquired it around 1968.
“We ship all over the country. We ship to the Caribbean and some overseas,” Huntley said. The company’s Web site includes endorsements from restaurants all across the country.
One of the businessmen quoted on the Website also spoke to the Register. Edward Carosi, president of Uncle Tony’s Pizza and Pasta in Warwick, R.I., said the double-decker Peerless oven works well and conserves space. The restaurant offers family-style Italian food with an expansive menu, he said.
Peerless Ovens is a mixture of the old and the new. The old includes the factory building at 334 Harrison St., which Huntley said dates back to the 1850s. At various times it was the Ilg Brewery, Wine Co. and the Diamond washing machine company. Peerless Ovens, formerly in Columbus, has been located there since 1942. “This is the old wine cellars,” Huntley said, standing in an underground chamber.
But despite the history in his building, Huntley sees his business as one of Sandusky’s best kept secrets, “tucked away on the shores of Lake Erie, hidden from the general public.” It’s on the same street as one of Sandusky’s main historic landmarks, the Cholera Cemetery, about a block away.
Huntley says his factory’s recent focus on ovens is an old-school return to what put the company on the map. It has moved away from other cooking equipment, such as grills and ranges, and moved back to concentrating on ovens. Many of them are based on modernizations of decades-old Peerless designs, and many are often used for particular foods, such as pizzas, Mexican foods or baked goods. Many pizza parlors, including the bigger chains, use conveyor ovens, which allow them to make many pizzas quickly, Huntley said.
But he said his factory specializes in traditional deck style ovens, also known as stone ovens or hearth ovens. Huntley said a conveyor oven can make a tasty pizza, but says pizza fans appreciate his ovens. “The stone is usually a way of making a gourmet or slightly higher quality pizza,” he said.
Although many of the ovens are destined to produce pizzas and baked goods, some have more exotic uses. “We actually make ovens that bake soil,” Huntley said. Those are for road building. “That’s how they figure out how the dirt reacts (to heat), so they go on to build a road,” he said.
The new element at Peerless Ovens includes marketing on the Internet. There’s a Website, www.peerlessovens.com. The company is on Facebook (it had 11 “fans” last week) and Flickr. “We have a guy who sells our stuff on an eBay store,” Huntley said. “There are numerous Web dealers who are active.” Pizzaovens.com is “one of my better customers,” he said. “Our ovens are known for saving space,” Huntley said. “Simple, durable and they work.”
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