Behind the Scenes: Companies at the Heart of Everyday Life
From October to April, 250,000 visitors hit the ice at Rockefeller Center and strap on rental skates from American Athletic Shoe Company of Ware, Massachusetts. The company, which sells skates to rinks around the world, lines its rentals in antibacterial leather that repels water and odor. American Athletic Shoe also sells hockey skates, inline skates, and neoprene shoes for water sports. President Paul Opalinski, whose uncle Edward Urban founded the company in 1959, employs about 10 people, depending on the season. Sales are nearly $3 million a year.
Wherever skaters wobble about outside this rink, you will find interlocking tiles of recycled rubber from Becker Arena Products of Savage, Minnesota. The company, founded by president Jim Becker in 1988, also manufactures dasher boards, the barriers that protect hockey fans from pucks, and sells other products for ice rinks, including bleachers and locker room equipment. Becker Arena Products has 36 employees and does about $10 million in annual sales.
Don't call it the Z-word. That's a competitor of Resurfice, maker of this Olympia 1000. About six times a day at Rockefeller Center, this machine shaves the ice with a sharp blade and smoothes it with hot water. A tractor pulled the original model, created by president Andrew Schlupp, a welder who founded the Elmira, Ontario, company in 1961. Today, a number of NHL arenas use its machines, and Resurfice, which has 46 employees, says 17 machines have been ordered for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
Sculptor Paul Manship's 18-foot Prometheus has perched here since 1934, and Sepp Leaf Products, which sells gold and metal leaf, supplies the stuff that keeps it looking lustrous. The last time the statue was regilded, in 1999, some 25,000 sheets of Sepp's 23.75-karat gold leaf were applied. The New York City -- based company has also put a shine on the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Peter Sepp, whose father, John, founded the business in 1956, now manages Sepp Leaf and its 10 employees.