Formed in 1949, the company was owned and successfully operated by members of the Hassel family before it was sold, changed hands a few times and ended up with a venture capital investment group, with little industry knowledge, prior to its collapse.
Kismet operated out of a plant in Painesville, Ohio, until 2000 when the operation was moved to Perry, Ohio, and finally to Blue Ridge, located about 90 miles from Atlanta, in 2003.
It moved to Perry because the Painesville plant was old and not suitable for expansion. It headed to Blue Ridge to lower costs because the company wasn't making a profit at the Perry location and falling deeper into debt.
Fortunately, the only customers the firm lost with the move south were those that didn't want to pay the higher freight costs from Georgia back north, Fitzhenry said.
It went into bankruptcy because the company's pricing structure was geared to booking jobs, but its prices were far too low, which resulted in invoicing that kept growing sales without generating profits, he said.
The new group of investors acquired it because "the marketplace is always looking for a reliable extruder that is able to provide quality products at competitive prices," according to Fitzhenry.
"Kismet had all the equipment to provide a wide variety of products, and we felt that the company had the expertise to compete in the marketplace," he said. "We felt that our group had the managerial expertise to turn the company around."
It turned a profit in just a year after exiting bankruptcy because the company focused on quality and revising a sound pricing structure, the executive said.
"Our group believes in making a reasonable profit on each and every job, which is not what the previous owners understood. We also concentrated on instituting a company philosophy that our employees could embrace."
For years, the firm had a reputation for being able to produce and supply a wide variety of rubber profile, tubing, cord and a variety of gaskets at reasonable prices. It currently provides virtually the same product line, but its emphasis is supplying a quality part at competitive prices that allows the firm to make money.
Fitzhenry said that Kismet's approach to its customers is to work closely with them from the design through the production phase of a project. "We want to produce a part, not only to our customers' print, but from optimum material for their application.
"In other words, if a customer requires a silicone material, we want to know why they have chosen silicone. It is our desire that a customer benefits from our expertise."
The company's primary customer base is east of the Mississippi River, but it is steadily growing its business in the western states. The firm primarily serves distributors and the appliance, electronics, agriculture, heavy equipment, transportation, architectural and defense industries.
Fitzhenry noted that the company has several long-term employees such as Rice, "and we'd like to think they have stayed because of the changes we have made.
"I think our key people have found their effort and the embracing of the company philosophy has resulted in a reborn and successful company. We couldn't have been successful without their effort and focus on Kismet's survival. I also believe they know we appreciate their effort."