In 1917, with his wife and one small child, Anton Lazaro, Sr. immigrated to the United States from Albania. He was 27 years old and although he had no formal education, he had a natural instinct for how things worked and was a self-taught “Jack-of-all-trades”. He took a job as plant maintenance man at Grunwald Plating Co. At the time the industry used burnishing barrels lined with planks of wood. These wore out quickly and Anton conceived of the idea of lining them with end grain hardwood blocks.
In 1935 Anton founded Hardwood Line in the garage of his home on Artesian Ave in Chicago. Constantly looking for a better way of doing things, he realized that the industry was in need of a new material. In 1940 he found it. The material was Lucite. It was clear as glass, acid resistant, non-conductive and easily fabricated. In 1942 Hardwood Line Manufacturing received a patent for the first ribless Lucite plating barrel.
It was Anton Lazaro, Sr.’s constant search for a “better way” that led to many innovative changes in the Industry. In 1947 Hardwood developed the overhead drive barrel which rotated above solution to eliminate drag out from tank to tank. The overhead drive barrel was ahead of its time since it also served to conserve water when water conservation wasn’t yet an issue. With his sons now joining him in his operation the modest shop soon became too small for the flow of business.
In 1947 Hardwood Line relocated to a 4,200 square foot building at 2022 N. California Avenue in Chicago. In 1950 Anton Lazaro, Sr. passed away, leaving his 3 sons to carry on the business. They continued the tradition of innovation and saw the company continue to grow. In 1976 under the leadership of Anton Lazaro, Jr. Hardwood Line moved to its current facility at 4045 N. Elston Avenue in Chicago. It was a continued search for a “better way” that lead to such innovations as the Inside/Out (I/O) door, Paddle Wheel Plating Barrels, Doorless Plating Barrels, improved barrel rinsing systems and Spray-Thru technology. Today Hardwood Line remains a family business steeped in the tradition that there is always a “better way”