The story began with a fire that destroyed the grocery store of John T. Winslow in 1847, resulting in his purchase of Portland Stone Ware that same year. At that time, the company made clay pottery, jugs and pots for food storage and owned a large factory at the salt marsh in the Back Cove of Portland, Maine that was accessible by rail and sea.
Shortly after the acquisition, Winslow saw an opportunity to capitalize on the factory’s capacity and began manufacturing Vitrified Salt-Glazed sewer pipe and firebrick.
Throughout the late 1800s, PSW manufactured all kinds of stoneware and clay goods and Winslow introduced mechanical methods to lower production costs and improve efficiency.
In 1886 the factory was destroyed by fire. Winslow immediately rebuilt and it continued to grow in size, capacity and employees, enabling PSW to become one of the largest manufacturers of clay sewer pipes in the country.
With the market for handcrafted pottery shrinking towards the end of the 19th century, PSW focused on pipe and firebrick production and in the early 1900s established a Boston sales office. Willis Frank Clark, a family member of the Winslow family, joined the company as an owner and Manager of that office.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the company began distributing other products, including importing cement. These shifts and the continued demand for pipe and firebrick allowed the company to maintain operations despite two World Wars and the Great Depression. In the early 1940s, PSW began to reduce shipping by sea and expanded their ground transportation capabilities and fleet.
In the late 1950s the Boston office relocated to Cambridge and Ronald A. Schuler Sr. joined the company as a sales representative, eventually being promoted to General Manager.
In 1970, the factory in Maine was closed when the Federal government took the property by eminent domain to construct Interstate Route 295. That same year, after nearly 20 years as a trusted employee, Ronald Schuler Sr. purchased Portland Stone Ware from the Winslow-Clark family.
Soon after, Schuler made significant strategic decisions including expanding into nail distribution to capitalize on the housing boom. With the plant closed in Maine, Schuler saw another opportunity to expand PSW and developed a method to manufacture house columns using cement. This concept of using cement in steel tubing provided strength to support load bearing needs in buildings. This eventually led to the manufacturing of Portland Concrete Filled Columns.
Schuler would start each day making cement with a small hand mixer to fill the columns. He would then change his clothes to make customer sales calls, meet with vendors and complete the invoicing and general accounting in the afternoon.
In the late 1970’s and early 80s Schuler’s children, Donna Morgan, Ronald Jr., and Robert joined the business and PSW began distributing stone products to diversify its building material offerings. To meet customer demand, the company added to their fleet of trucks.
In 1986 a fire damaged a Cambridge manufacturing warehouse and, like the Winslow family a century before, the family rebuilt and PSW continued to grow throughout the 90s. At the end of the decade the business moved from Cambridge, expanding its footprint to where it remains today in Dracut, MA.
After working alongside his children for nearly three decades, Ronald Schuler Sr. passed away in 2008 and they assumed ownership of PSW. As the family continued to expand product lines to serve the lumber and masonry industries there became a need for a larger facility.
To accommodate manufacturing of house columns and bollards, PSW built a new facility in Methuen, MA. In 2018, PSW acquired Dean Column Co. of Queensbury, NY and began manufacturing products with a patented locking system, known as the Structural Lock System. With the new facility, manufacturing both the Portland Column and the Structural Lock System became more efficient.
A Legacy of Rock Solid Support
With several clients dating back to the 1900s, PSW’s formula for success has stood the test of time. The family continues to be dedicated to serving the needs of lumber and masonry retailers throughout New England by delivering high quality products and service.