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Alison Gasser is proud to work for Gasser Chair that supports its community in Youngstown, Ohio | Xena blog interview

Youngstown Proud

Alison Gasser's journey from California to her hometown of Youngstown, Ohio in 2022 was a heartfelt return to her roots. After passing an intense interview process for the Sustainability Coordinator position, she was accepted and joined her proud family business at Gasser Chair that opened more than 76 years ago.

Gasser Chair doesn't just manufacture high quality products, it is known as the Rolls Royce of chairs that sets the standard for commercial seating. The company has shown an unwavering dedication to the people of Youngstown since it was founded in 1946.

About 50 years ago, Youngstown saw its steel mills and manufacturing industry leave when they moved their operations abroad for cheaper labor. Since then, the town struggled economically and has still not fully recovered. But through all the uncertainty, Gasser Chair never left.

"Even though it would have been much cheaper to outsource, we have always felt a strong commitment to our community. We continue to hire and source materials locally to create world-renowned products in Youngstown.”

Gasser Chair makes world renown commercial chairs in Youngstown Ohio

Tell us about your career and decision to move back to Ohio

"I’ve always felt a deeper philanthropic need, I want to make sure people around us have a decent shot at living a healthy and successful life. I started my career in the AmeriCorps VISTA program in Los Angeles developing internships for at-risk youth who had not traditionally finished high school.

It became very clear to me that the best way I could assist people was by providing them with an opportunity to assist themselves while working for something that is bigger than me. I’m able to do that on a greater scale in Youngstown, Ohio at a company that supports an area that I have heard defined as still recovering.

The move was very special to me. It has been in the back of my mind to work with my family that continues to support its community so deeply. I see every day what this company means to the people of Youngstown and how Gasser provides its team members with an opportunity for a quality life. I feel more fulfilled than I ever have felt here in Youngstown.”

What is so special about Gasser’s manufacturing process

“Gasser Chair has been operating a sustainable business – genuinely – for 76 years by focusing on up-cycling and reuse. We use a circular economy model that aims to have as little waste as possible, not only in our manufacturing facility, but in every aspect of the company, including corporate offices."

Alison shared a story when her young father, the current company president, visited a landfill and swore to never put anything in it. Sustainability is a true company ethic that's integral to their manufacturing process.

Every step in the company's supply chain is sustainable. They source as many materials as possible from within a 25-mile radius and their products are made to order, meaning they don’t produce anything until the order is placed.

Scrap metal is either melted down for reuse or donated to local artisans. Scrap wood is donated to local wood-working school programs in the area or turned into mulch. Excess fabric is donated to fashion programs in New York and Los Angeles.

Alison Gasser cares deeply about sustainability

Please explain why sustainability is so important to you

“I just genuinely care about my life and the life of others. The resources we humans use to sustain life are finite. Our time on this planet is finite. Why would we not want to make it the best possible experience while we are here? It’s so clear to me that we cannot continue to extract finite resources without a way to support recreating them. If we don't live sustainably, we suffer more than we need to and there is no need to make life harder than it is.

I can’t fix everything, but what I can do, is make small improvements every day and this is my opportunity to do that.”

Why have so many employees been with the company for over 20 years

“I have not found anything like what Gasser Chair has when it comes to employee loyalty. I think this town has watched so many good things leave over the years. Gasser is the one that never did – as a company and as a family.”

Alison says it’s hard to explain the culture with numbers and data, instead it shines through individual stories. When you ask a team member why they’re at the company, they will tell you it’s likely because of one of the Gasser family members.

There are multiple generations of families that work at the company. Their lead welder who has been there for 25 years is nearing retirement and was training her son to take over the role. When one of their employees on the manufacturing floor didn’t have a car for six months, Alison’s father (the president) picked him up every morning and dropped him off at work by 6:30 am.

Employees at Gasser Chair are super loyal to the company that has treated the town of Youngstown like family for over 76 years

What advice would you give to women interested in a manufacturing career

“Just got for it. Find a woman you want to be like and figure out how you can get there. I used to hyper-analyze everything within myself and it turned into a lot of self-doubt. I envied a lot of women who were in certain positions instead of realizing that if I put in the work, I could likely get there.”

After Alison completed her post-graduate degree in sustainability at American University, she realized she was more capable than she thought. Working through the challenges in that program changed her outlook.

Why did you order a pair of Xena boots

“When you make a quality product, you recognize a quality product. I’m also in a very unique position where I walk the production floor on a daily basis, and then have meetings with our board.

This would usually require an outfit switch, but with my Xena boots, that’s not necessary anymore. One day, I went to the barn in the morning, then walked through the manufacturing floor, and finally to a meeting with our new sales manager.”

Ana Kraft (CEO and founder of Xena Workwear) and Alison Gasser (Sustainability Coordinator at Gasser Chair)

We hear you love the outdoors

"When I lived in LA, I would surf the ocean every morning. Now that I'm in Ohio, I hike and do things outdoors. I also started my own garden to grow crops that are good for women's health.

Currently I am growing vegetables that are high in nutrients like beans, peppers, radishes, carrots, and beets. Then when I take them sell at farmers markets, I let women know why these are especially good for them. I deeply believe that what we put into our body can be medicine.”

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