Oscar Winski News



Oscar Winski — Heavy metal’s Iron King

STORY BY JANE MCLAUGHLIN ANDERSON PHOTOS PROVIDED

There’s a hidden world in Lafayette where new and scrap metal is collected, sorted, bundled, recycled, fabricated to industry specifications and transported for a new life in a new product. A behind-the-scenes world where broken and unwanted items are repurposed, and new parts are created for industry. Here, Oscar Winski has reigned as Iron King for more than 100 years as a pioneer of the recycling business.

Oscar Winski’s humble story began when he emigrated from Poland in 1880 to New York City, becoming a peddler of aluminum pots and pans, tin pie pans and rags in order to make a living in America. Oscar’s wife, Lottie, and son, Moses, joined him a year later, eventually settling in Lafayette in the early 1900s. Winski’s family and business grew to include two more sons, Louis and Albert, and a daughter, Lena, prompting Oscar to buy a piece of property on Wabash Avenue in 1907. There, he and Louis officially launched the Oscar Winski Company. Oscar also was a reserve policeman in Lafayette, and being very proud of his position, often wore his policeman’s uniform with badge in the scrap yard.

The historic flood of 1913 turned the tide for the small business. The bridges on Main and Brown streets, as well as the railway bridge, collapsed and swept into the Wabash River when heavy rains fell on frozen ground in late March, causing the river to rise 22 feet above the flood stage. Oscar and Louis, with their team of two horses, salvaged the wood and metal bridges from the Wabash River, thereby helping to restore commerce to both river cities 100 years ago.

Soon Moses joined the business, and the company focused on expanding ferrous (iron-based metal) scrap work. The business prospered in the 1920s, providing enough income for the entire Winski family until the Depression hit and Louis’ and Moses’ sons moved away to seek their own fortunes in independent scrap yards in Michigan City and Frankfort. During World War II, Louis became a real-life “George Bailey,” collecting scrap metal and speaking at bond rallies in support of the war effort. Oscar Winski’s business grew as the market for commodities increased during World War II in order to supply the metal needed to supply guns and ammunition.

Lou’s daughter, Doris, married her college beau, Henry Silver, in 1934. Henry joined the company in 1952, eventually taking over as president after Lou suffered a stroke. He expanded the business to include nonferrous (non-iron based) metal, such as aluminum, copper and brass. Silver’s legacy also lives on through scholarships for environmental geosciences students at Purdue University, established in honor of Silver, which continue today.

Henry and Doris’ daughter, Margery, married Michael Bluestein, who joined the business in 1971 with his fatherin-law to become the next generation of family in the business. Under their leadership, the Oscar Winski Company moved to the present-day 40-plus-acre North Ninth Street headquarters in 1975. They built a new warehouse facility to process both ferrous and nonferrous metals. Since that time the number of employees has grown from 17 to 225.

Steve Bluestein, Michael’s brother, joined the business in 1985 to head up the new steel and aluminum service center. As president, Michael Bluestein continues to forge relationships with industry leaders within Lafayette and beyond, and by accommodating their industrial metal needs, expands Winski’s growing list of services.

Andrew Ball, local businessman and president of Voestalpine Rotec, Inc., relates, “My relationship both professional and personal started in late 1999 when Mike Bluestein of the Oscar Winski Company welcomed me and our company to Lafayette. Over the last 13 years the service, support and attention to detail from the entire team at Oscar Winski has been second to none.

“Until 2011 most of our business dealings were focused on the scrap and recycling side of Winski, but as they added value-added services and capabilities we were pleased to outsource fabrication business, and now they supply blanks that we form in to complex air suspension modules. The family and the entire team at Winski have brought real meaning to the term ‘service center.’

”Today’s company has diversified into “The Complete Metals Company” with distinct divisions across 400,000 square feet of metal processing, warehousing and distribution space.

The explosion of technology prompted  a new dilemma: safe and environmentally responsible disposal of unwanted electronic devices. Indiana law prohibits electronics in landfills. Oscar Winski eRecycling can recycle almost anything with a cord or batteries: cell phones, computers, copy machines, DVD players, electrical tools, electronic toys, fax machines, iPods, radios, some small appliances and wiring, to name a few of the items accepted free of charge. There are some items, such as televisions and microwaves, accepted for a nominal fee. Appliances with refrigerants are not accepted. A complete list of acceptable items and fees can be found at www.oscarwinski.com/erecycling.

Items can be dropped off at the Ninth Street facility, picked up on-site, or via electronic recycling drives. eRecycling offers the opportunity to have sensitive information safely removed through data destruction or transferred from old computer hard drives to a portable drive for a nominal fee.

The future is welded solidly in place with the addition of the fifth generation of family members: Marla Bluestein-Kyburz, corporate director; David Bluestein, vice president of metal recycling; and Alex Bluestein, director of warehouse logistics and business development. All three Bluesteins are wired to carry on the rich legacy of the Iron King.

Dennis Carson, Lafayette Economic Development director, says, “The Oscar Winski Company, its principals and employees have been involved in many community projects and activities. The Bluesteins have been helpful and supportive with economic development efforts with the city of Lafayette and Greater Lafayette Commerce. They have been involved with our trade and friendship missions with Nanshan Aluminum and government officials from China, as well as supporting public art initiatives by donating steel for sculptures in both Lafayette and West Lafayette.”

“For over 100 years and generations of family members, the Oscar Winski Company has brought value to our community and its customers. Winski’s is a marvelous example of a wonderful corporate citizen, who cares about its business relationships, employees, and improving the quality of life in Greater Lafayette.” -- Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski

 

Oscar Winski

2407 North Ninth St.

Lafayette

(765) 742-1102

oscarwinski.com

The Metals Recycling Division

purchases ferrous and nonferrous metals

from industry and the public, sorts, processes

and packages it for sale to mills,

foundries, and smelting plants throughout

the Midwest.

The Lafayette Steel and Aluminum

Division – operates steel and aluminum

processing/service centers in Lafayette,

Indianapolis and Chicago, providing

customized metal products to industrial

customers.

The Fabrication Division – specializes

in production bending, cutting, forming

and welding of steel and aluminum for

industrial applications.

OWLogistics – Third-party services

relating to inventory management and

just-in-time fulfillment for industrial

manufacturing companies.

Oscar Winski eRecycling – is the

newest division developed for today’s

recycling needs.