As you all know we are a small, family-owned business nestled in the middle of nowhere in rural Ohio. We have been in business for 53 years and are on our third generation. 5 1/2 years ago we lost our patriarch, my husband, the father of my children and the owner of H & B Forge Co. Before he died he called a meeting with Jarrod and I and said he needed our help in closing up the business. He said it would be easier if we did it in an organized fashion rather than be left to do it on our own after he was gone. Jarrod strongly objected. He told his father that he wanted to keep it going, that he had always planned to take it over one day.
Will went on to explain to him that there was no money in it. It was dirty, hard work and there was so little interest in the hawks anymore. Business had dwindled to the point we couldn’t even take any money out of it to live on. In fact, we had not done so in many years. But Jarrod refused to give in. After a lengthy discussion he convinced his father that he truly did want to keep it going and Will agreed to keep it running as long as he was able. Jarrod worked a regular full-time job and came by here on his way home to do whatever needed to be done before going home to his family. As he did so he learned more and more about the forging process.
And then that day came. Long before any of was ready, Will left us.
Those were some very dark days for all of us. We struggled to go forward. Jarrod and I didn’t know much about running a business. I was a teacher and he was only 29 years old. I was so grief stricken I could barely function. I sat in the dark all day waiting for Jarrod to get here, turn on the lights, get a fire going in the shop and start the forge. Then he and I worked til late into the night. Not because there were so many orders. There weren’t many. But it was what we knew. It was what we needed. So it was what we did.
But a funny thing happened. The orders increased. Now let me tell you how we did business in 2013. We did not take credit cards. We did not have an online shopping cart. If you wanted to order you had to place a call to us. Then we sent you your order with a bill in the box and hoped that you would remember to pay us. And most of the time, you did. But now the phone is beginning to ring more and more. The orders are increasing and increasing. I am getting nothing done but answering the phone. Jarrod is working way into the night and all weekend long. We have a long talk and decide that we should take a leap of faith and he should quit his job. (I had already retired in March of 2013) So in May, 2013, just 5 months after Will’s death, we found ourselves running a full time business. I had to learn how to ship overseas. Our webmaster had to add a shopping cart to our site. I had to get a credit card machine so I could take orders over the phone. There was so much to learn! And, meanwhile, the orders are coming in faster and faster.
And then more miracles. We meet a famous TV personality who was the host of a popular survival program. He likes our hawks and begins buying them for his store. Another world-famous survivalist calls and asks to do a review of our Shawnee. He loves it and tries more of our items. He writes about them on forums and adds them to his regular gear. He tells the students in his classes around the world about our hawks and knives. Articles are published in magazines that we don’t even know about. One of our pipe hawks is presented to General ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis. A well-known actor orders some of our hawks and loves them. He talks about them on TV and features them in a movie that he’s in. And so life is breathed back into H & B Forge Co again. I have a purpose in life and the heavy blanket of grief begins to lift.
I don’t know what you think about life after death. I know what I believe. I believe there is a God. ONE God. I believe that He loves us more than we can possibly understand. I believe that He answers our prayers. I believe that when we leave this life we live again in a perfect place where there is only love and peace, joy and goodness. I believe that my husband loved us as much as it is possible for humans to love one another. I believe that Will and God had a plan. The Bible promises us that He will bring joy from the ashes. I don’t know why Will had to die when he did. But I do know that God loves us and He didn’t leave us in that awful place.
When Will died I didn’t know who I was anymore. I only knew myself as a wife, a mother and a teacher. I was no longer an active participant in any of those roles. So God gave me a new one. I was a business owner and I got to work with my son every day. I got to see a business grow and prosper. I got to see my son become a man and then the artist and craftsman that he is now. And, after 4 1/2 years, I got to find love again.
One month ago I married a wonderful man. He is a farmer. He loves the earth. He loves God. He loves my children and grandchildren. And he loves me. And so the story continues.I am moving out of the beautiful log home Will built for us. Jarrod and his family are moving in. It is only fitting. The shop is in my yard. His 5 children will have 25 acres to run and play on, a woods to explore, adventures to seek. His wife, Kassie, will be quitting her job and joining the H & B family. She will be taking over my role. It will be a gradual process. There is much to learn and she has small children to attend to. And I’m not ready to let go yet either. This business has been part of my life for 53 years. Change is hard and there has been a LOT of that around here lately! We will go slowly where we can.
Now you are caught up. H & B Forge lives on. There is fresh, young blood to feed it, lots of new ideas and a commitment to tradition as well. We are three months behind pretty much all the time. But we are working on that. We will never mass produce and we have no desire to commercialize though many tell us we could make a fortune if we did. We don’t need or want a fortune. We just want to make a living and keep doing what we’ve been doing for many years. We appreciate your patience and understanding and your devotion to our little business. God bless you all!