In a time when fewer and fewer products are made in America, one Oak Cliff business is keeping the local manufacturing industry alive while also paying homage to the history of the neighborhood.
In its heyday, DEMCO Manufacturing Inc., with production facilities on West Davis for nearly 50 years, set the gold standard of the era making ornamental iron products for Home Interiors and Gifts, the generically named dynastic company that not enough people remember. These days, DEMCO is all but defunct now that most of its former products are made more cheaply overseas.
But Mini-Fab, an upstart from Fort Worth-based entrepreneur Matt McCoy, is reviving the DEMCO building’s legacy of light-industrial manufacturing.
Mini-Fab designs and creates clocks, lamps, combs, key chains, straight razors, liquor flasks and many other products, mostly geared toward men.
“They’re things that tickle my fancy and fit my lifestyle,” McCoy says. “People are looking for things that are interesting.”
McCoy started the company out of an old woodworking shop he bought a couple of years ago.
It all began with a beard comb, he says. Unable to find just the one he wanted, he designed one, crafting it with the assistance of a woodworking laser cutter.
He liked it so much that he made more and offered them on Etsy, where the business grew faster than he could have expected.
His products were featured in editorial gift guides in “Cosmopolitan,” “Real Simple,” “Country Living” and other national magazines. Soon, he had wholesale retailers in New York, San Francisco, London and Paris.
He moved his business into the DEMCO building earlier this year, and Mini-Fab now has two fulltime employees besides McCoy. McCoy is the one who commissioned a mural for the building from artist collective Wheron, and he recently opened the studio to the public as a retail shop.
Daniel McDonald, who owns the DEMCO building, says it is fully leased. His dad started DEMCO in the early 1950s out of a chicken coop in his brother’s Elmwood backyard. He later moved to a shop in Elmwood before relocating on West Davis in 1961.
Throughout its history, the company also made air conditioning cooling systems, dump trucks and even bomb parts during the Vietnam era.
But Home Interiors and Gifts, the direct-sales retailer founded by Dallasite Mary Crowley, was by far its biggest client. Crowley left the company to her son, Dallas Mavericks founding owner Don Carter, who sold it. The company merged with another retailer in 2008 and moved to East Texas.
McDonald says he has plans to revive DEMCO’s manufacturing efforts.
“There are some things I want to make,” he says.
McCoy, who had worked as a caricature artist in college, started a business providing art services to Six Flags Over Texas and other “seasonal tourist traps.” He sold that business about a year ago when he decided to go all in on Mini-Fab.
His business is rare, he says, because there are very few American companies that manufacture and retail items.
One of the most popular items is a shaving kit that includes a brush, straight razor and “man card” mini strop, plus beard balm that McCoy’s wife, Agnieszka, makes in their kitchen at home.
Any of Mini-Fab’s items can be personalized. Find them online at mini-fab.com.