Rochester, N.Y. – Germanow-Simon makes highly-specialized lenses and other parts. Many of its 100 workers have a high-level of training.
“We’re manufacturing here some of the most difficult kind of injection mold components anybody can make,” said Andy Germanow, President and CEO.
The optics company is located in 19th century multi-storied brick buildings on St. Paul Street. Germanow, which was founded in 1916, moved into the space in 1928. A couple years ago, it was clear the company had to renovate or relocate.
“The building was a mess,” said Germanow. Windows needed replacing. Some space was vacant. Floors were grimy. Offices were cramped. The entire place was outdated.
Germanow decided to stay. The site was contaminated from years of industrial use, making it nearly impossible to sell and a liability. The firm tapped into a state brownfield program and invested several million dollars in renovations.
The restored floors are gleaming. The walls are bright. There’s room to grow.
“We were in essence able to repurpose these old buildings for modern-day manufacturing,” said Germanow.
There was another big reason to stay. The factory has a lot of history. Old photos dating back decades line the walls. Old machine parts were used in new furniture.
“I did that because I wanted everybody to remember and for guests that come that this isn’t a company that just appeared ten years ago,” Germanow said.
Germanow’s grandfather founded the company. He was a Russian immigrant working as a machinist. He scraped together the money to buy his own machines. Three generations of Germanows have now worked in the factory.
Germanow says this is the story of a factory’s rebirth and his family’s history.
“It’s also a story, I think, of immigration. My grandfather was an immigrant. Over the years many people who worked here were immigrants,” Germanow said. “It’s an immigrant who came and was an untrained machinist and was able to build up a business. I think he would be surprised - maybe wouldn’t be surprised - by what it is today.”