- Catherine Green
The History of Kaswell
Most every family business has a history, and we do too. Our history dates back to 1946, when our founder, Harold J. Kaswell made it home from WWII. Although a talented musician, speed typist, and bookkeeper, he needed a regular and daily job! His brother Ernest R. Kaswell, then an MIT graduate and national authority on synthetic fibers, knew of a company in Ohio that had modified the formula of a coal tar pitch emulsion, a product originally used as a final filler/sealer for industrial wood block flooring, (whatever that meant!).
It was determined that the new modified product could be an effective sealer for an asphalt pavement, making the paver look better, and maybe last longer. In those days, no one ever heard of sealcoating pavement and so a new industry was born! New England was projected to be an ideal market for a pavement protective coating, so our founder and his application partner started a new company with one small desk, and one phone line (five numbers long), selling and applying a coating for driveways and parking lots.
Jennite Associates was born in 1946 in Hingham, MA, and soon became the New England Sealcoating Co., Inc. It took years and years for Jennite J-16 to become “the” product to Jennite your driveway. Like Kleenex Tissues! Harold knew nothing about the wood block flooring business, only that there was such a business. He asked the factory about their wood blocks, and asked if he could sell some. They agreed, and so in 1946 our founder and his partner sold and applied a coal tar pitch emulsion for sealing pavement, and they dabbled and sold some wood blocks on occasion. There was an endless amount of pavement to seal, and so the business grew and prospered primarily in the pavement coating business. The wood block portion of the business was always a step child business. In fact, New England was not a very good market for industrial end grain block flooring. Most of the large industrial users of block flooring were in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and remain as such. Smoke stack America! Pine and Oak were then the only two species offered, and perhaps needed!
Fast forward to 1971, Norm Kaswell graduated Northeastern University and discussed job opportunities with the boss! Since Harold's partners were really not interested in the block business, Harold and Norman formed a new company just to market blocks for industrial application. It didn’t take Norman long to realize there was little to no growth in the industrial sector for Wood Block Flooring, especially in the New England area. But Norman envisioned other species that would make decorative flooring. And so that’s where we came from. Kaswell Flooring remains the pioneer in recognizing the beauty of end grain wood, from its industrial roots to exquisite wood products that are not only functional but striking in their design and beauty.
In 199………something, Norman was later joined by his son Joshua. Josh threw away all carbon paper, all typewriters, and all printed catalogs and brochures. With social media, a company website, computers, and zoom calls, Josh has expanded the product line to over 50 species of end grain, serving the upscale commercial and residential markets with premium design end grain, edge grain, new and reclaimed species, solid and engineered end grain, end grain on planks, panels, and strips, composite block flooring, and our most recent Black Locust blocks for exterior application, Producing 5,000 sq. ft. of end grain block flooring for a street in Chicago installed in 1909 brought us full circle, back where the industry started. Wood Blocks are not time tested, durable, attractive, products that are adaptable to most every type of facility.
Along with the Kaswell family, all the staff that work here feel like they too are part of the family and are working towards keeping the legacy of Kaswell Flooring alive for future generations.
If you would like to learn more about Kaswell Flooring Systems and our team please contact us.