Route 66 in the News

Frankoma Pottery Again Seeking New Ownership

2010-01-08 21:02:50

SAPULPA, Okla. - Oklahoma soil is what Frankoma has been built on for 76 years. It's what grew this company from the ground up.

"The clay is dug right there and then they make the products right there in Sapulpa," said Walter Bishop who sells Frankoma products in his store called Made in Oklahoma.

Frankoma is just off Route 66 and has been a destination stop.

"They've been having people coming in here touring and showing people how they make it," said Jesse Sparks who lives right across the street from the pottery company.

But neighbors have noticed fewer buses pulling up and Bishop has noticed sales taking a hit.

"It's like any other retail business. It's up and down," said Bishop.

The company has had four different owners over the past 35 years.

The new owner, Joe Bagosta, didn't want to do any on camera interviews, but he said the company's sales are down between 60% to 70%.

Bagosta says five people were laid off New Year's Eve, including production employees.

Right now, just three employees remain on duty.

He said he would like to sell the company in hopes of keeping it going for decades more, standing strong on the Oklahoma soil that made Frankoma a household name.

"They're certainly an iconic industry, and we hope all works out well for them to stay open," said Ted Fisher, the Economic Development Director for the city of Sapulpa.

"It's going to be like a landmark missing from Sapulpa, if they close it down," said Sparks.

The owner said the store is taking a few orders.

The company's Sapulpa showroom and museum will remain in operation, but customers are advised to call before coming to make sure the store is open.

Frankoma Pottery gained world fame in the 30s and 40s. The first piece was crafted by Joe Frank near Norman in 1933. The company website says Frank designed his dinnerware and bakeware products to be functional as well as artistic and to reflect the beauty of the Southwest.

Frankoma cookware and collectibles were once among the best sellers worldwide, but fell on harder times over the decades. The company has had at least four owners in the past 35 years. The current owner is a Broken Arrow businessman who took over the operation in 2009. He told 2NEWS reporter Marla Carter Monday morning that the future of Frankoma has not been decided and that he would welcome new investors in the Oklahoma institution. This is the company's 76th year.

~Marla Carter, KJRH.com

 

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