Nestled deep in the Black River Valley, the Village of Lowville is smack in the middle of Lewis County. But being out of the way for many people, most simply think of Lowville as an area for farms, both agricultural and wind. And while agriculture and the Maple Ridge Wind Farm are a big part of the village, there are actually two businesses that Lowville has, that no other place in the country does, and they produce items we all see and use every day.
In this edition of "Your Hometown", our Brian Dwyer takes us behind the scenes of two major companies that call Lowville home.
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LOWVILLE, N.Y. -- Every once in a while you may see a big time company move into a small area and set up shop. And it's very rare when two do it. But not only has that happened in Lowville, but the two companies, Qubica AMF Bowling and Kraft Cheese actually are right next door to each other. The camera is now pointed at Kraft, so let's start there.
"We're the largest producer of Philadelphia Cream Cheese in the world."
Darin Zehr, the Kraft Lowville Plant Manager said, “At Kraft Lowville we have about 300 plus employees and I think for being a part of the community, we're very fortunate that we have such a hard working and dedicated group."
A group that is responsible for most of Kraft's Cream Cheese products you see on your trips to the grocery store.
"We have products that range in size from 3/4 oz., all the way up to a 50 lb. box we do out of here. Our retail products, we have a lot of different flavors that are in tubs. We also make of course, the iconic Philly brick, the 8 oz brick that everybody's familiar with. But our latest excitement is really around Philly Indulgence. It's made with true Belgian chocolate. We're very excited about it. We have it in a milk, a dark and a white chocolate. We literally make millions of pounds of cream cheese every week. We bring in about a million gallons of milk every week,” said Zehr.
And that made setting up shop in Lowville, known for its dairy, an easy choice.
"We bring in, by far, the majority of our milk from Lewis County. We bring in some from the area outside Lewis County. We're fortunate because we need that quantity of milk and maybe more importantly we need that quality of milk,” said Zehr.
And nowhere is that quality of milk more on display than Lowville's annual Cream Cheese Festival. It celebrates all things cream cheese and the workers at Kraft pitch every year with this, the world's largest cheesecake, 4,000 pieces.
“For this cheesecake, which is 8 feet by 20 feet, we have about 400 tubs of ready to eat cheesecake filling that goes into that. And if you track it kind of when the milk comes in, all the way through the making and handing it out, we have about 70 to 75 that actually participate in building that cheese cake,” said Zehr.
In all it takes several hours for the team at Kraft to put it together. It takes much longer for Kraft's neighbor to finish its product. Qubica AMF has one plant in the world that makes its famous bowling pins. It's right here.
"We are the largest manufacturer of bowling pins in the world. We started making our Amflight pin in 1977 and we're currently the only domestic manufacturer of bowling pins that has a USBC certified pin as of now."
And like dairy, there's another resource this area has that makes Lowville perfect for Qubica AMF.
"The only wood that's suitable to manufacture a bowling pin is hard maple. That type of maple is only grown in this region said, Wayne White, Qubica AMF General Manager and Vice President. “We employ 96 people here. We have employees in this plant who've been here 40 to 50 years. Every employee in this place touches that bowling pin at one point from start to finish in this process. They're all key in making that pin high quality and have gotten Qubica AMF to where it is today in the bowling pin industry.
“The items that make our pin better are scoring and sound. So when you're bowling on a lane and you hear that unique sound of the ball hitting the pins on a strike, that's a direct result of our bowling pin manufacturing process,” said White.
And the one thing that both of these neighbors have in common, is giving back to Lewis County. Both have employees that serve with fire departments or first responders. And both make donations, product or money to local organizations that need help. And that's why the community is thrilled the big companies have moved into their small home.