Raising A Glass To 60 Years
Above right: In 2018, The Allen Company was one of three suppliers recognized as PPAI Promotional Products Pioneers during The PPAI Expo. Allen Dohan, far right, accepts the award.
Clinking glasses and saying “cheers” is synonymous with celebrations. Some of life’s most treasured memories are reveled in these moments, from personal markers, like graduations and marriages, to professional achievements, like landing major clients or reaching significant goals. And at the center of all these landmarks—and more—is glassware personalized by The Allen Company, which celebrates its own benchmark of 60 years in business this month.
The Blanchester, Ohio-based supplier has been personalizing drinkware—from mugs and glassware, to ceramic tile, acrylic and stainless steel—since 1959, when Bill Allen, uncle of the current owner, Allen Dohan, founded the company.
Allen found himself in the promotional products industry when Osborne-Kemper-Thomas, Inc., a direct house best known for its calendars, where he worked as vice president of manufacturing, discontinued its glass and ceramics division. He saw an opportunity and purchased the company’s lehr, which is a temperature-controlled kiln used in glassmaking, its equipment and machinery. And because Osborne-Kemper-Thomas was already in promotional products, the company had enough business to give to Allen. “Within six months, he was making a profit,” says Dohan. “Then he gradually built up the promotional products part of the business.” Allen retired in 1980, after leading the business through more than 20 successful years of growth and expansion.
The Allen Co. started expanding outward by establishing partnerships. In 1971, a major partnership was established with Georges Briard, an American designer known for his glassware and signature dishware in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. Together, the two companies entered retail, producing items sold in luxury boutiques and the gift sections of department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Marshall Field’s and Hudson’s. But when the companies parted ways 10 years later, The Allen Co. was left at a crossroads. “The glassware retail portion was half of our business,” says Dohan, who became president and CEO of the company in 1977.
That’s when The Allen Co. started importing full containers of English ironstone, Dohan says, which was manufactured by a company in Stoke-on-Trent, a city in England known as a major hub of glassware machinery in Great Britain. The ironstone was used to craft mugs, and by the late ’80s, the supplier had introduced exclusive marbleized mugs to the promo market followed by color bleeding, blending of iridescent color, disappearing ink and color-on-color decorating in the ’90s. “We were the only ones with marbleized coffee mugs for a few years until an inferior product came to market,” says Dohan. “We brought container after container to the United States.” Today, one of the company’s most popular imprinting methods for glassware is satin etch, a process of imprinting that creates a frost-type color effect on the glass. The company has won 45 international awards in design, receiving the most recognition for its blending technique.
Along with matchless design came patented innovations, and in 1997 the company introduced its spinner mug that featured a custom bead fitted onto a watch pin and placed into the handle of a coffee mug for personalization and movement, offering a stress-relieving component. “The very first order of spinner mugs was between 4,000 to 5,000 mugs, which went to all the season ticketholders of the Cincinnati Reds,” says Dohan. “We were extremely worried, because we had to produce the order and hadn’t finished testing the mugs. We held our breath—and everything worked out perfectly, so we knew we were on our way.” Today, the company has more than 300 different spinner beads, from a globe and computer to a dollar sign and apple.
After the development of products and customizations, the company switched gears to focus on exclusives, and succeeded deliberately in doing so. Today, The Allen Co. is the exclusive decorator of brands including Bevanda, Blender Bottle, Cyclone Cup, Dopper, EcoVessel, HIP, KONG H2O, LifeFactory, Offero glassware and ceramics, Penguin Cold, Proforma Shaker, Stojo, Takeya, Thermoflash, Thermos and Under Armour.
The crux of much of The Allen Co.’s accomplishments are rooted in the business relationships—and friendships—formed throughout the years. When Dohan took over as president of the company, he formed a small group of suppliers, who were essentially competitors, but all sold vastly different products, from watches, small tools and pens, to grooming products, bags and towels. Together, the group traveled to near and far places for more than 20 years, but they always made sure to spend their mornings, Dohan says, working and sharing ideas, problems, success stories, failures, products and financial information. “This helped all of us tremendously over the years to succeed.”
It’s all of these moving parts—and memories solidified in the clinking together of glasses—that have brought The Allen Co. to celebrate 60 years in business this month, continuing a legacy its founder laid down decades ago. “It’s a sense of accomplishment, and some of it is passing the reigns to the next generation,” says Dohan, referring to son Stan, who has been the company’s president since 2014, and his younger son, Preston, who has served as vice president and art director since 2004. “The time has really flown by, I will say that.”
A celebration will be held commemorating the anniversary at the company’s Blanchester, Ohio, headquarters on September 26, with company tours open to community members.
Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.