After More Than 150 Years, Holyoke Company Calls It Quits, Heads To Auction

Aug 2, 2017

A manufacturer in Holyoke, Massachusetts, which first opened its doors during the Civil War, is auctioning off everything under its roof Thursday. The company is a casualty of a changing industry.

On a tour led by Jim Sagalyn, president and owner of the Holyoke Machine Company, the only sound is the buzzing of transformers, which power the overhead lights. Giant machines as long as 50 feet sit idle. 

"Down this way, you have several large lathes, some of the other machines in the background are rolled grinding equipment for grinding rubber, steel, chilled iron rolls," Sagalyn said. 

Holyoke Machine made parts and huge rollers used to process textiles and paper. Holyoke is, after all, known as the Paper City. But changes to those industries meant less demand for the company's products.

"The end use of the lightweight coated paper in this country is high-gloss paer used in magazines like Sports Illustrated, TIME, LIFE, " Sagalyn said. "How many magazines do you know that are either no longer there, or are half the size they used to be?"

In its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, the company employed about 40 people. By the end, only 20 or so were left. Sagalyn tried to sell the company but found no buyers, so he closed it in February. He said it wasn't easy being the person to end the long history of Holyoke Machine.

"It dates back to 1863 to the digging of the canals that made Holyoke the first industrial city in the country," Sagalyn said. "My family's been involved in this business since the late '40s. And it was a difficult decision." 

On Thursday, Sagalyn will watch as everything the company owns is sold to the highest bidder.