RENO - When it opened its doors 25 years ago, JABO in Reno was one of many marble manufacturers in the United States and it produced 3.5 million marbles a day.
Things have certainly changed over the years for the company and the industry as a whole.
"Now we're making 250,000 a day because everything went to China," said Joanne Argabrite, president of the company. "There are only two marble manufacturers left in the U.S. - us and Marble King in Paden City (W.Va.)."
Richard McKnight pulls a piece of hot glass off a machine at the JABO marble plant in Reno. The company primarily produces marbles that are used in spray paint cans. They are sent all over the United States, plus Puerto Rico. (Photo by Ashley Rittenhouse)
JABO was opened in Reno by Jack Bogard. He previously owned The Bogard Company, based in Cairo, W.Va., but struggled to be successful there because of the limited availability and high price of natural gas, which was required to heat the glass used to make marbles. He eventually crossed paths with Argabrite and their names were combined to form JABO. Bogard has since retired from the company.
JABO, off Ohio 7 just north of Marietta, once employed 148 people but now it's operating with nine employees.
"There's so much of it in China now that there's little left for us to do," Argabrite said. "Right now, we're pretty well limited to industrial (marbles) that go into the spray paint cans. We still do a little bit of decorative but we only have three clients left that buy decorative from us. That was the biggie that went to China, although a lot of the industrial went there, too."
The marbles, placed in the spray paint cans to stir and mix the paint, are sent all over the United States and Puerto Rico.
"We don't deliver - it's picked up right here at the plant," said Richard McKnight, an employee there for 23 years.
The company has four buildings, currently using two. Its warehouse, shipping and receiving operations are currently in one building, while its manufacturing operations are housed in another.
Argabrite explained an open-ended furnace is used to make the marbles and it runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with someone working on it at all times.
"There's someone with it 364 days a year. The only time it shuts down is Christmas, but sometimes now we don't shut down for Christmas," McKnight said.
The glass is placed in the back of the furnace, then melted down, cut off in globs and sent onto rollers, ending up as a round marble.
"They're making marbles today the way they were made in the 40s," Argabrite said.
The marbles are piping hot when they come off the machine, McKnight said.
"They put glass in there every half hour - eight shovels full," he said. "It'll make 120 a minute and it takes about 12 hours to cool."
They are made in many different colors and are usually 5/8 of an inch or 9/16 of an inch for industrial uses. Once they cool off, they are closely inspected and the good are sorted from the bad.
"We always use just scrap glass - the leftovers from Fenton (Art Glass)...and any glass manufacturer- so we recycle their glass into a product people can use," Argabrite said.