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Workers box cast iron cookware to be distributed at Lodge Manufacturing on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, in South Pittsburg, Tenn. The cast iron cookware manufacturer broke ground Wednesday on a new foundry.
some text A worker boxes up cast iron cookware for distribution at Lodge Manufacturing on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, in South Pittsburg, Tenn. The cast iron cookware manufacturer broke ground Wednesday on a new foundry.

America's oldest and biggest cast iron cookware company is expanding its business with the purchase of a 6-year-old premium cast iron cookware maker headquartered in Portland, Oregon.

Lodge Cast Iron announced Tuesday it is buying FINEX Cast Iron and will shift production of FINEX skillets, pans and ovens to Lodge's foundry in South Pittsburg, Tennessee later this year. Lodge CEO Mike Otterman said it was the first acquisition in the 123-year history of the family-owned cast iron maker in South Pittsburg.

"Lodge has built the great tradition of American cast iron cookware and kept it alive — in our hearts and in our kitchens — when no one else could," said Ron Khormaei, who started FINEX along with Mike Whitehead in 2012 as a premium brand of cast iron skillets. "We wouldn't be here without Lodge's great heritage and we're incredibly excited to expand cast iron cooking to new fans, new regions and new generations together."

The 10-employee FINEX sales and marketing functions will remain in Portland and FINEX will keep its brand and separate identity. But instead of contracting the forging and production of its cookware to other vendors, Lodge will make the FINEX cookware in the $90 million foundry it built two years ago in South Pittsburg.

"This merging of like-minded American cast iron companies is an exciting opportunity for the future of USA-made cast iron cookware," Otterman said. "The decision falls in line with our mission to build shareholder equity and keep the Lodge business thriving while staying true to our values and our small company roots."

Terms of the sale were not disclosed. Otterman said the capital spending for the purchase and the additional sales will be only a small part of Lodge's overall results.

Cookware companies at a glance

FINEX Cast Iron Cookware Co.

Founded: 2012

Location: Portland, Oregon

Founders: Mike Whitehead and Ron Khormaei

Products: Cast iron, hand seasoned skills, fry pans and dutch ovens

Web site: www.finexusa.com

Lodge Cast Iron

Founded: 1896

Location: South Pittsburg

Founder: Joseph Lodge

Products: Cast iron skillets, griddles, grill pans, baking pans, stoneware, camp ovens dutch ovens

Web site: www.lodgemfg.com

"But as we continue to expand both domestically and internationally, I think this as a meaningful plank in our growth structure," he said.

Otterman said the FINEX cookware is a premium line that does not compete directly with Lodge and acquiring the company will help to better utilize Lodge's production capacity while expanding company sales — already running ahead this year by more than 10% — into new luxury cooking markets.

"Lodge values made-in-America manufacturing and wants to continue to be the leader in cast iron cookware," he said. "We feel this is a very good cultural fit for our business and view FINEX as a long-term asset for our company."

In recent years, Lodge has differentiated its product portfolio with the additions of the Wildlife Series, Chef CollectionTM, and the recent introduction of the triple seasonedTM Blacklock line.

FINEX, which began with a Kickstarter campaign to fund a premium 12-inch cast iron skillet in 2013, has grown to a national company with both online sales and sales through more than 600 retail stores, according to FINEX marketing director Michael Griffin.

FINEX cast iron boasts an ultra-polished smooth cooking surface that's seasoned with organic flaxseed oil for a naturally nonstick performance. The FINEX stainless steel handle stays cool and provides an ergonomic feature for support, Griffin said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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