Peterson has always been an Irish institution. While the factory moved as of May 23, it remains where it belongs: in Dublin, where it was established more than 150 years ago.
It didn't move far. The new location in Deansgrange is within walking distance of the Sallynoggin neighborhood where it operated for the past 50 years. Obviously, Peterson doesn't move often. "Sallynoggin was only our second home after moving from the original St. Stephen's Green factory in 1972," says Managing Director Josh Burgess. The company is like its pipes: resilient, traditional, reliable — when Peterson sinks roots into the earth, they are resolute, and Irish earth is equally steadfast.
The company is like its pipes: resilient, traditional, reliable
Need for Additional Space
It was a necessary move and not aimlessly conceived. "Despite our attachment to the Sallynoggin building and the community," says Josh, "the move ultimately made a lot of sense for us." As the four-year lease — signed when Laudisi Enterprises purchased Kapp & Peterson — neared conclusion, Peterson examined the requirements of the company and accepted the need for additional space and updated infrastructure. "If we wanted to continue to grow and do things like update our tooling, some big changes were necessary. For example, the electrical capacity of the building had reached its limit. The electrician at one point said, sort of jokingly, 'No more machines. I can't add one more machine without doing a serious overhaul of the electrical.'"
"The electrician at one point said, sort of jokingly, 'No more machines.'"
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of the move is that the new location provides an open workspace able to accommodate every station, and with good potential for additions and modifications. "There were particular types of work in Sallynoggin," says Josh, "that were spread around the factory because, as we continued to grow, we often had to put machines where they would fit rather than where they should properly go."
In the new space, particular processes are more intuitively grouped. All of the machines related to the drilling of bowls, mortises, and mouthpieces, for example, are now together, and "all of our sanding equipment is grouped and everyone doing that work is together," says Josh. "Collaboration is better when everyone doing the same sort of work is sitting together."
Jonathan Fields, Josh Burgess, and Glen Whelan
Moving an entire factory that has been entrenched in its location for five decades is a large undertaking. Peterson may be a relatively small company, but its employees rely on an extensive range of handtools and machines that presented a rather more daunting challenge than simply packing boxes. "There was a whole lot of planning that went into the move, but when the time came to execute, we moved the factory ourselves," says Josh. "We didn't hire a company to move our machinery. When it came to moving, we secured everything to pallets, loaded them onto a van, and moved them ourselves." The entire staff contributed, directing their attention to the equipment, tools, and briar that they directly work with and ensuring the appropriate relocation of those materials.
"Moving the factory was a really big project," says Jonathan Fields, Peterson's Factory Manager, "but we wanted to make it happen with as little disruption to the staff and our pipe making as possible." "We moved all our machinery and pipes in three days," says Jonathan. "We left Sallynoggin on a Wednesday and started making pipes in our new home the following Monday."
"But when it came to machinery and the pipes that were in progress, we moved that in three days"
A large part of the success of this move is attributed to staging the move beforehand. While maintaining current production, most of the contents of the warehouse, for example, were moved in advance. "All of the overstock that we might have in accessories, those things were able to move in advance," says Josh. "Then, during the week leading up to the move, we started moving briar, we started moving stems and silver and nickel, all the things that we use to make pipes."
There were a couple of complex systems that did require outside help. "We had a specialized company assist us in the electrical dismantling and set up, and another that helped with the dismantling of the dust collection system, but we did everything else." "I think we set the pace for those lads," says Fields. "The contractors were pushing to keep up with us."
Whenever a move like that takes place, some interesting items inevitably appear. For most of us, it's a lost pocketknife or lighter that rematerializes during the mayhem of moving, but for a company like Kapp & Peterson, more interesting items can be expected. "We found the lunch bell from the original factory," says Josh. "It actually predates the company; I think it was made in the early 19th century, cast in Dublin. I don't know when it came into Peterson's possession, but Tony Whelan remembers that bell mounted in the Stephen's Green factory, where they used it for the lunch bell and for the start- and end-of-day. It's in really good shape; it needs to be cleaned up a little bit, but we were very happy to find that."
"Tony Whelan remembers that bell mounted in the Stephen's Green factory, where they used it for the lunch bell"
A New Home in Deansgrange
The men and women who make Peterson pipes have dedicated years to Peterson, and in some cases, multiple generations of their families have contributed to making the pipes that we appreciate. They are now settling nicely into their new home. "The new place is great," says Tony Whelan, who is a former factory manager and 50-year Peterson veteran. "When I volunteered to help with the move, I became the first employee in Peterson history to work in three different locations. I'm proud of that."
Because the Deansgrange site is so close to the previous building, the staff has experienced little disruption in their transportation and commute. Most don't drive: mostly, they bike to work. "Dublin has good bike lanes," says Josh, "and a lot of our people are within pretty easy biking distance." In Dublin, bike racks are actually of more importance than parking lots.
Jonathan notes that everyone at Peterson is enjoying the new neighborhood and their new neighbors "The Grange pub is a good place to head after work. They pour a nice Guinness." While the new location provides vast improvements, the staff maintains fond memories of Sallynoggin. "The factory in Sallynoggin was my first job," says Jonathan. "I worked in that building when I got married; I worked there when my kids were born."
They have mastered the relocation, are in a better, more comfortable place, and are busily making the pipes that have made the company famous. Still a Dublin company with a long Irish heritage, Peterson is poised to continue its already impressive craftsmanship from its new home. While the pipes may originate from a new address, it's only about a mile from the old, and the people are the same dedicated individuals who have been crafting some of the most distinctive pipes in history.