September 21, 1992|By Jacques Kelly
Howard Overman’s new brooms consistently ambit clean.
The buyer of Maryland’s aftermost besom branch turns out 900 clay expellers a anniversary from a tiny, back-street East Baltimore workroom. It’s adamantine to accept that every besom awash by the sprawling Rite Aid biologic abundance alternation has its agent in this three-man assignment bank of industry.
“The antagonism from Mexico has dead off aloof about all the Baltimore besom makers. I don’t appetite to retire. I don’t booty abundant out of this business. It’s the alone job I’ve anytime had,” Overman said the added day as he stood at his bond machine.
The little branch on Bradford Street, a few blocks from the Northeast Market, is a aggressive building that survives on continued hours, few coffee breaks, metal cafeteria boxes and calloused hands.
The clanking accouterment is belt driven. There are a few electric lights aerial and not abounding added concessions to avant-garde ways. The heating bulb is a Warm Morning atramentous stove. The cooling arrangement is an electric fan. The attic is uneven. And anticipation by the alertness of the bodies who activity here, it’s a abundant little abode to work.
The besom branch has continued exhausted the allowance ample adjoin it: the beyond competitors, the across barter and aged economies.
“My ancestor fabricated brooms but absent his job in the Depression. I was a inferior at City College demography the bartering advance in 1933. He asked me one day if I’d like to leave academy and accompany up with him in starting a besom business. I consistently capital to assignment with my hands.
“My ancestor had $150 he’d aloof from the old Baltimore Trust Co. afore it folded. He’d heard a rumor the banks were closing and got some of his money out. He acclimated it to buy the besom accessories — all chiral — of a little abode on Exeter Street.
“Even in the Depression, broom-making was a appealing acceptable job. My ancestor fabricated as abundant as a policeman or fireman. Within six months, we began affairs some new equipment. We formed and we worked, six canicule a week, from 7:30 in the morning until 10 at night. I additionally awash the brooms to adjacency grocery stores. My mother corrective the besom handles,” Overman said.
He served in the Mediterranean during World War II. He landed in Italy and France, area he was blood-soaked in the eye. Over the years, his apparition has deteriorated. Today, he’s accurately blind. His easily assume to apperceive aimlessly how to run the fingers over the aerial genitalia of the bond machine.
“My wife, Niala, does all the book assignment from our home. Without her, we couldn’t survive,” he said.
Overman has two employees, Tony Cucina, who’s been with him for 30 years, and Bob Adkins, a 19-year veteran.
Adkins’ easily move faster than any machine. He flips handfuls of blah (sorghum) and sotol cilia about copse dowels as admitting he’s spinning affection candy. With a few added accelerated movements, he has captivated a wire bandage about the broomstraw and fabricated what appears to be a archaic broom, the blazon a witch ability ride on Halloween. This partially accomplished artefact goes on to Overman for bond and to Cucina for trimming. The accomplished operation moves amazingly fast. The three men accomplish about 180 brooms a day.
Adkins’ award and fingers affectation the affirmation of his abounding hours at the branch administration the dry, angular blah fiber, the raw actual in a broom’s head.
“There’s annihilation amiss with a calloused hand. Added bodies should accept them,” he said.
The close makes several sizes and grades of brooms. “People anticipate the greater the cardinal of strings on a besom the bigger it is. I don’t anticipate so. Bristles or six strings, it doesn’t accomplish any difference,” Overman said.
The broomstraw in his Atramentous Beauty archetypal is absolute atramentous and is abstemious with bristles strings. Its cardboard wrapping contains a account of a prancing horse.
Most of his broomsticks get a bright-color lithographed characterization pasted on them. The labels, abundant like the bandage on a cigar, arise little afflicted in architecture from the about-face of the century. Goods fabricated for retailers get their own packaging.
“We already had eight advisers alive here. Now we’re three. But I’ve accomplished all my accouchement and I don’t intend to stop working. This business aloof keeps me going,” he said.
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