CHICAGO (CBS) — On the corner of Roosevelt and Damon on Chicago’s West side is a hidden treasure. One of only two major clock factories in the world, second only to China.
“Our clocks are present around the world, in American Embassies and government buildings,” said Janet Szlyk, President of CEO The Chicago Lighthouse. “Our clocks are pretty important. We have the largest market share in the United States. We’re the last large manufacturer of clocks in the United States and that’s meaningful,” she said.
For more than 110 years, the Chicago Lighthouse has been serving and employing the blind and visually impaired.
“85 percent of our employees here in the plant are legally blind by definition,” said Jean Claude Kappler, Vice President, Industries Program.
For 40 years, the Lighthouse has made clocks for the federal government. With the help of touch and memory, employees make hundreds of clocks a day.
“They assembly a wall clock in about 90 seconds,” said Kappler.
Now, the Lighthouse is ready to launch a whole new line of clocks. Szlyk says it’s a new market for them.
“I think there is a growing market for clocks that are attractive for your home. People may be using their smart phones to tell the time but you want something more decorative in your home.”
The clocks are already available on Amazon and will soon be seen on Target shelves in Chicago.
“We have a partnership with Target. We are starting small with Chicago based stores. They will be present first in the Target on Elston and Division beginning in July, then launched in the 15 stores in Chicago, then throughout Illinois and then nationwide,” said Szlyk.
Every year, they make and sell about 90,000 clocks to the federal government. Kappler hopes to sell the same amount of their new clocks to consumers.
“We want to diversify our customer base. There are 44 different styles or variation of styles and we’re going to grow that in time,” he said.
The new line even includes clocks with a Chicago flare.
“We have a Chicago flag clock which we think will be very popular and one with a map of the El stops of Chicago,” said Szlyk. “The flag is apparently so popular. Target sells out of of anything emblazoned with the flag in seconds. We hope that will with our clocks as well.”
From the Pentagon, to the the federal courts to the world’s embassies and now in your home and office, Chicago Lighthouse clocks keep the world on time and they’re all made right here in Chicago.
“This new line means the marketing strategy is very different but we want to adapt with change,” said Kappler.
The Lighthouse is one of the oldest social service agencies in Chicago, founded by a group of blind and sighted women volunteers in 1906. Among the many programs it offers are a school for children with multi-disabilities; job training and placement; a low vision clinic; and a manufacturing facility. It is regarded as the most comprehensive agency of its kind in the Midwest and a model agency nationally
The Lighthouse has also expanded its services and employs 500 people for their call center that serves the Illinois Tollway, Advocate Health Care, the Veteran to Veteran hotline and many other agencies.