SODO STORIES, MADE IN SODO SERIES: WASHINGTON CHAIN & SUPPLY, INC.
The SODO Stories, Made in SODO series, is a collection of stories about business owners who create, design and sell products that are made in SODO. The businesses featured in the Made in SODO series are all featured in our Made in SODO video. Each story/business is unique, and they help to create a vibrant community here in SODO. To watch the video, it can be found here: Made in SODO Video
Story: Jillian Celich | Photos: Vertizon Photography
WASHINGTON CHAIN & SUPPLY HELPS KEEP MARTIME AT THE HEART OF SODO.
In Seattle, the maritime industry is an industrial staple of this city. From commercial fishing, to boating during Seafair weekend, or watching cruise ships sail in on the Puget Sound; Seattleites know that maritime is flourishing. But the heart of the maritime industry is in SODO, with Washington Chain and Supply creating the parts that keep this industry running.
Washington Chain and Supply started in SODO in 1888 as the Alaska Junk Company, where the company worked on scrap material. In 1954, Harry Schwartz, who started as an employee, worked his way up through the ranks and purchased the company from his father. Schwartz had a vision to expand the company into the chain manufacturing business to support the waterfront and the seaport. With Schwartz’s leadership, Washington Chain increased their operations to fabricate chains, buoys and anchors. In 1976, Schwartz sold the company to its current owners, the Branford Group, and under their direction the company has grown exponentially. Washington Chain now serves customers worldwide from working with New Jersey and San Diego’s ports, along with ports in Egypt, South America and other parts of Africa. They also build specific parts for the US Navy, and have expanded to support other industries, such as land construction, aerospace and oil.
Over the years, the Branford Group has worked to instill a new standard in the company by conducting enhanced testing on their products. With this testing, they’ve decreased the amount of oil spills, and other accidents that can happen in their industry. Additionally, they’ve increased their inventory levels and have brought in new customers by focusing on building relationships. All of this helps guarantee that their product is backed up by high quality standards. For Washington Chain, creating quality products is not only key to their industry, but also key to their mission. When you enter their workrooms, it’s evident their employees are passionate about the products they are making. They know there is no margin for error in their industry and they’re determined to create the best product. Their employees thrive with the opportunity to problem solve and make unique products that a customer has requested. Right now, they are working on creating a custom-made anchor for the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal that will open in the fall of 2020. They know that the work they do is necessary to ensure safety within their industry.
Although business is booming for Washington Chain, it is difficult for the company to find new employees who want to get into the industry. Steve Row, Vice President at Washington Chain, stated that many employees who work at Washington Chain have a long family lineage with the company. Currently, an uncle and nephew work as welders, a father and son work as a superintendent and a chain yard employee and another father and son work in the machine shop together. However, even with this tradition of multi-generational employees, they will need new workers because the work they do is a niche industry, and there are only a few other companies in the United States that can do the same magnitude of work as Washington Chain. Steve knows that the jobs his employees perform can’t ever be replicated by a machine and he is confident in knowing that the industry can guarantee work, which can attract new employees.
For Washington Chain, there isn’t any other place they want to be located other than SODO. They like being centrally located, with access to the fishing industry in Ballard, to marine cargo operations at the Port of Seattle, as well as the proximity to Downtown. Because of this, they can be more efficient in their work, and create the unique, quality products they are known for. Their company is what SODO is all about- grit, industry and hard work, and is why Washington Chain and Supply is Made in SODO.
A special thanks to Seattle’s Office of Economic Development Only in Seattle Program for sponsoring a portion of the Made in SODO project.
With a focus on building up small businesses and strengthening our local economy, Seattle’s Office of Economic Development works to foster an economy where no matter who you are, who you love, or where you’re from, you can achieve your career and business goals right here in Seattle. OED’s Only in Seattle program supports SODO businesses by partnering with the SODO BIA to advocate for the neighborhood, build community capacity and fund neighborhood programs.