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With expansion, hair care company aims to stay true to its roots

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Daisy, the miniature pony, helps with the groundbreaking at Straight Arrow expansion in Forks Township.
Daisy, the miniature pony, helps with the groundbreaking at Straight Arrow expansion in Forks Township. - (Photo / )

Faced with a growing demand for its products for horses and humans, one manufacturer is expanding to add jobs and boost production capacity.

Next year marks the 45th anniversary of Straight Arrow Inc., a company known for producing hair and skin products that company officials say not only earn high marks from horse owners, but seals of approvals from celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and mentions in movies, including “Blades of Glory” starring Will Ferrell.

Straight Arrow makes Mane ‘n Tail Shampoo and Conditioner, a product originally tailored for show horses but which grew in popularity so that people use it as well.

The company produces and ships worldwide all of its products, which include hair sprays, wound creams, pain formulas and other shampoos and conditioners, from a manufacturing facility on Highland Avenue in Bethlehem.

The company marked a groundbreaking Thursday at what will be its new home at 900 Conroy Place in Forks Township for the start of a multimillion dollar expansion project to be done in several parts. Kensington Home Fashions, a division of Lincoln Textile Products Co. Inc., is a tenant in the building that will move out once Straight Arrow moves in next fall.

Straight Arrow’s Highland Avenue home includes a production and office building, along with a nearby warehouse on Brodhead Road, said Devon B. Katzev, president of Straight Arrow.

The Highland Avenue location still will be used for smaller filling lines and batching products. The company also will ship products from Highland Avenue to the new Forks Township site, Katzev said.

Some of the company’s production jobs and sales operations will remain in Bethlehem, he said.

Straight Arrow, which has about 70 employees, is hiring for mechanics, drivers and other positions, he added.

The Forks Township expansion should be completed next fall and will have about 100 employees, he added.

“This will become the main manufacturing site in order to launch new items,” Katzev said. “Even after we move in here, we’ll still be tight on space.”

The first part of the multiyear expansion involves building a new wing on the 92,000-square-foot Forks Township site. The company will add to the building in different phases, he said.

The wing is a 15,000-square-foot addition to the back of the existing site to house the new batching facility for the company to make its products. Once this addition is complete, the building will be about 110,000 square feet.

“We need this desperately because we are out of room in our existing facilities,” Katzev said. “We will absolutely be expanding our product line.”

Future expansions include a right side addition of 25,000 square feet, a third expansion of 22,000 square feet for its corporate office at the front of the building and a fourth expansion of 45,000 square feet to add shipping capacity for its warehouse.

The additions and renovations are part of a five- to 10-year plan. Once complete, the building would include production space, labs, a warehouse, shipping and offices under a site that’s nearly 200,000 square feet.

“It’s a company that will be here for the future, and it is us,” Katzev said. “As a privately held company, I’m always investing back in the company.”

The company began the planning process for the first expansion more than four years ago and received financial backing from Lafayette Ambassador Bank, Katzev said. The bank provided primary funding for its expansion goals.

Working with Mark Jobes of Lafayette Ambassador, the company established additional funding from low-interest loans from Pennsylvania, Katzev said.

Janet Smith, regional director for Lehigh Valley for the Governor’s Action Team, a group which is part of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, helped the company secure a loan through the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, according to Katzev.

Meanwhile, John Kingsley, vice president of finance for Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., helped the company secure a low-interest loan through the Machinery and Equipment and Loan Fund from the state for the expansion, as well, Katzev said.

The funding totaled several million dollars, he said. He declined to provide a figure for the construction costs.

Bohler Engineering, which has an office in Upper Saucon Township, is the engineer for the project, and A/Z Corp., which has an office in King of Prussia, is the construction company building the expansion.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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