Hoffman Iron and Steel, founded by Ralph B. Hoffman during World War II (1939-1945), was the area's most proficient fabricator in ornamental iron and steel forms for many decades. The building in which it was housed is now (2014) occupied by Starr Fabricating, Inc.
Ralph B. Hoffman began this business in a barn on property owned by his parents John and Blanche Hoffman (located at the intersection of Warren-Sharon and Niles-Vienna roads). By late 1944 and early 1945 Hoffman had hired five employees. Full-time employees included brothers Kenneth and Lewis Hoffman and Glenn C. Offutt, a friend Hoffman had met while working at Trumbull Manufacturing. Hoffman brothers Vincent and Edgar were the two part-time employees, making this truly a family business.
The business initially specialized in ornamental ironwork. Hoffman's wife Gladys kept the books, though there was no office or telephone. The only telephone was located in Hoffman's parents' house. Calls were signaled to the barn by ringing a bell.
The business expanded after the war. Hoffman himself built garaged and an office on the property. He and his employees constructed the building frames and much of the building. All of these original structures still stand (2012), a testament to the quality of work.
By 1955 twelve men worked in the shop and three in the office (a clerk, a typist, and a bookkeeper).
During this time Ralph and Gladys Hoffman attended to their employee's welfare. Around 1958 a company picnic was held on the property. The Hoffmans had built a house adjacent to the plant in 1952, digging a small lake in front of the house.
Several persons recollect that one of the more interesting products manufactured by Hoffman Iron and Steel was a fire truck for the Vienna Township Volunteer Fire Department. Kenneth Hoffman was in charge of this work. The firm was also hired by ADS Machinery for an assembly job for Lonestar Steel in Texas. Other jobs included railing for Youngstown's Powers Auditorium, road machinery, septic tank forms, machine bases, hydraulic presses, and guards.
Thomas B. Smith worked in the office. Smith wanted to work for the Ohio Edison Company but decided to work for Hoffman because the office had an air conditioner. (After a few months, though, he discovered the air conditioner didn't work all that well.)
According to Smith, Hoffman Iron & Steel employed 62 people working two shifts. Forty Airman, some eight to ten of them from the Vienna Air Base, worked part time. Other employees at the time were Paul Kovacs, Ken Poto, Guy Hull, and Ralph Stiles.
Change of Hands
In April 1965 Hoffman retired. The Hoffmans sold their company to Mid-Continent Manufacturing Company and later moved to Florida. Mr. Hoffman died in Ohio on July 17, 1977, at the age of 71.
This article is adapted from Paul and Edie Kovacs, Vienna, Ohio, "Where We Live and Let Live": Town 4, Range 2 of the Connecticut Western Reserve (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1999), pp. 262-264.