It's taken a lot of effort and support from employees and customers, but one year after a fire that destroyed her plant, Peggy Hefner-Sawyer said business is better than ever. Hefner Machine & Plastics Inc. relocated to Tyler, Texas, in October following a May 1994 fire that destroyed the previous facility in Troup, Texas.
The fire ignited when a hydraulic line on an injection molding machine broke, spraying oil onto the press, which was running an extremely high-temperature material.
``The pressure of the oil was so great that when it hit the heater bands, it exploded and sprayed a wall of fire everywhere,'' said Hefner-Sawyer. No employees were injured.
The fire destroyed seven presses and the building. When customers came to survey the scene, the only thing they were concerned about was whether Hefner-Sawyer planned to get back into business.
``I told them yes, and they were very supportive,'' she said.
Tools were cleaned and repaired, and other custom molders in the area ran the moldswhile Hefner-Sawyer searched for a new building to purchase.
``Reconstruction of the old site would have taken too long, and I had to get up and running again quickly,'' she said.
She found a building in Tyler that had better access to her customer base, making transportation easier. In January, she put an addition onto the building, giving it a total of 20,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space.
Hefner-Sawyer got into the plastics business when her husband died in 1987, and she inherited the company. She left her job as a beautician to take over running the company.
At that time, Hefner Machine had five presses and nine employees.
Hefner-Sawyer, who has since remarried, has expanded the firm to nine presses and 36 employees, and serves mainly the industrial products market.
Hefner-Sawyer said she has not done all this alone.
``I've had a lot of good help along the way,'' she said. ``It's been my experience that most people are very supportive of you when things are down.''