Simplex Manufacturing Company has been in the Merritt family — and in Auburn — since 1918. The company, nestled between family homes and Rite Aid on Dunning Avenue on the city's west side, will celebrate 100 years in business this year.
"Some people don't even know we're here," Bob Merritt said with a laugh last week in his dark, wood-paneled office.
Bob is the grandson of William J. Merritt, who started the company in 1918 as a mechanical leather goods manufacturer. Now, Bob and his cousin Charlie Merritt co-own the family business, which has evolved from producing leather goods to making custom parts for different machines and devices, such as motors, hand tools and security systems.
William was "quite the inventor" before opening Simplex in the now-torn down Flatiron Building on Genesee and Market streets, Bob said. In the 1920s, William moved the company to "a big brick building" on Franklin Street and then to its current home at 105 Dunning Ave. in 1965. The company's small complex was once part of the Colombian Rope Co., a "huge" plant that used to make ropes and cords, Bob said.