A long-time, local, family-owned manufacturing company has significantly shifted its direction to supply Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other supplies to essential workers who are keeping us safe from coronavirus.
Wilcor, International, located at 161 Drive-In Road in Frankfort NY supplies outdoor activity equipment and camping supplies to recreation enthusiasts. Because of many years’ experience collaborating with elected officials, manufacturers, and others involved in the supply chain, Wilcor’s Vice President of Purchasing, Shawn Corrigan, saw a way he could quickly help the shortage of PPE’s.
Corrigan says he was personally struck by the equipment shortage, and the need for a fairer pricing strategy so that the end-users—hospitals, nursing homes, medical agencies, and first responders—could get supplies they need without being overcharged.
“It was the realization that it is people who matter the most that made me decide this was an effort we needed to get started with. I saw the need to help residents New York State and the rest of the country to get back on their feet again soon so in turn we can get back to what Wilcor feels is a prime objective–to BE OUTDOORS and ENJOY EVERY DAY. This we can only do if we take the right measures–completely and quickly,” Corrigan said.
Corrigan created a plan to have packs of 3-ply face masks that can be produced quickly and through over 60 certified factories, with each one producing about 2 to 3 million per day. The plan was to direct ship to all US post office hubs these ready-to-deliver packs of masks to end up in all residential mailboxes the day after they arrived at the Postal hub. The plan entailed starting with the hottest spots for COVID across the USA, and then continuing through all areas of the county. He says the plan contained three key elements for success—urgency, transparency, and organization.
“While I was somewhat disappointed that some of my suggestions for quicker acquisitions of PPE’s at low prices were not enacted by some state officials, I already had many contacts in businesses and industries, so the focus was getting these safety products to the businesses we’ve talked with and done business with for years. Now, we have a group of businesses, in-state and around the country, who are supplying face shields, gowns, and hand sanitizers, and other products. We’ve been able to find the best sources and suppliers possible to get these supplies to the hospitals, nursing homes, and other front line workers who need them,” Corrigan said.
The company’s interest in meeting an important need for PPE’s to keep Americans safe from coronavirus is only one of many examples of Wilcor’s place in the Mohawk Valley’s manufacturing history. Starting in the 1880’s, the Corrigan family was known for providing and distributing a variety of office supplies and household ‘provisions’ to a host of Utica-area businesses and households. When William J. Corrigan started a wholesale business on Columbia Street in Utica in the early 1930’s, it would gradually evolve into Wilcor International.
William and his sons supplied a variety of products to local stores, bars, and restaurants in the early years. Eventually, his son Bill would take over the business, spending many years researching ideas to help it grow through innovation and—in part through his unique, infectious personality and his strong support of many local charitable causes. By the time the business was moved to 333 Lafayette Street in Utica in 1980, Bill was a local celebrity due to his appearances at area civic clubs and not-for-profit organizations, and his business was well known throughout the area and beyond.
Several generations of Mohawk Valley residents remember ‘Your Store’ as a big part of Halloween in the Mohawk Valley. The costume and novelty shop was operated by Wilcor from the 1980’s until just recently on Lafayette Street. Shawn says his father really enjoyed this part of the business, traveling to New York City to see the latest costumes and Halloween products, and sometimes donning a Dracula costume and standing outside the store to wave to people passing by.
“My father always has seen the value of helping others, and in particular making people smile. In fact, a lot of the work he has done as an entertainer through the years has involved visits to the blind and mentally disabled and residents of nursing homes–folks who didn’t always have people performing for them. And often, he’d get called back for repeat visits,” Corrigan said.
Shawn says he and his brothers and sisters started coming into work in the 1970’s, doing whatever was needed. “We were sort of able to do our own brainstorming about the business. My father had us work on whatever was needed, and it was an excellent way to learn,” Shawn said. “He had worked for his parents. When he was young, fireworks were sold legally around Utica. My grandmother would work pitching fireworks to passers-by, and it was my father’s job to light the fireworks and hold them up.”
About the time of the company’s move to Lafayette Street, its evolution into the present-day Wilcor, International began (Wilcor being an abbreviation for William Corrigan.) The new emphasis on outdoor products, including camping supplies, and other recreational gear was a natural, since The Corrigan family were outdoor enthusiasts.
Today, Shawn and his five siblings are the fourth generation of Corrigans to distribute products—and their foray into PPE’s is only another effort to help residents of the Mohawk Valley and far beyond. While the Lafayette Street landmark is now gone as a result of the Mohawk Valley Health System’s hospital project, Wilcor continues its work from its modern Town of Frankfort headquarters.
“Today, my father still wants to know what’s going on in the business on a daily basis. At the age of 89, that’s truly what energizes him. To this day, he says what’s really important is the company name. He believes you do what’s good for the company name, and the company image to keep things going well. And he certainly sees the value of the current direction we’re taking with products to keep people safe,” Corrigan said.
Corrigan stresses that Wilcor has always loved and promoted the outdoor industry, and now, in these challenging times, it is providing services to businesses so their employees can travel as safely as possible while coronavirus remains a serious threat. He anticipates that Americans will be looking for masks and other PPE’s for at least the next year, and Wilcor will continue refining its new product lines in the coming months.
“Wilcor, its owners and its staff are proud Americans. Our dedication to help mitigate the harm, and better prepare essential employees to work safely is clearly making a difference in the fight against COVID-19. I hope everyone does their best to stay safe, follow social distancing guidelines, and be a helper to everyone you know and see,” Corrigan says.