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. While agriculture and the Maple Ridge Wind Farm are a big part of the village, there are actually two businesses that Lowville has, which no other place in the country does. 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 awhile you might see a big time company move to a small area, so it might seem very rare when two companies do it. But, in Lowville, that is exactly what happened when Quibica AMF Bowling and Kraft Cheese moved to town.
"People get so passionate about this, and one of the reasons is we're the largest producer of Philadelphia Cream Cheese in the world," said Darren Zehr, Kraft Lowville Plant Manager. "At Kraft Lowville we have about 300 plus employees, and I think for being part of the community, we're very fortunately that we have such a hard working and dedicated group."
The group that Zehr mentions is responsible for most of Kraft's cream cheese products that you see in the grocery store.
"We also make of course, the iconic Philly brick, the eight ounce that everyone is familiar with. But, our latest excitement is really around Philly indulgence," explained Zehr. "It's made with true Belgian chocolate. We're very excited about it. We have it in 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."
Setting up in Lowville, which is known for its dairy, made it an easy choice for Kraft.
"We bring in, by far, the majority of our milk from Lewis County. We bring in some from the area outside of Lewis County," said Zehr. "We're fortunate because we need that quantity of milk and probably more importantly, that quality of milk."
That particular quality of milk is showcased during Lowville's annual Cream Cheese Festival. It celebrates all things cream cheese, and the workers at Kraft pitch in every year with the world's largest cheesecake, with a total of 4,000 pieces.
"For this cheesecake, which is 8 feet by 20 feet, we have about 400 plus tubs of ready to eat cheesecake filling that goes into that. And if you track it when the milk comes in, all the way through the making and handing it out, we have about 70 to 75 people that actually participate in building that cheesecake," explained Zehr.
Overall, it takes several hours for the team at Kraft to put it together. However, it takes much longer for Kraft's neighbor to finish their product. Quibica AMF has one plant in the world that makes its famous bowling pins, and it is located next to Kraft in Lowville.
"We are the largest manufacture of bowling pins in the world," said Wayne White, Quibica AMF General Manager and Vice President. "We're currently the only domestic manufacture of bowling pins that has a USBC certified pin as of now."
And much like dairy, there is another local resource that makes Lowville the perfect setting for Quibica 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," noted White.
He also added, "We employ 96 people here. We have employees in this plant who've been here for 40 to 50 years. Every employee in this place touches that bowling pin at one point from start to finish in this process. They are all key in making that pin high quality, and have gotten Quibica AMF to where it is today in the bowling pin industry."
The one thing that both of these neighbors have in common is giving back to Lewis County. Both companies have employees that serve with fire departments or first responders, and both companies also make donations to local organizations that need help. All of this is exactly why the community is thrilled that big companies have moved into their small home.