Original V.L. Smithers Manufacturing Company building in Kent. Circa 1954.
A pilot plant was first set up in Akron, Ohio. The V.L. Smithers Manufacturing Company was subsequently founded in Kent, Ohio in 1954 to manufacture and distribute OASIS® Floral Foam, a water-absorbing material invented by Mr. V.L. Smithers. Kent was selected as the site of the company because of its proximity to truck transportation lines, emanating from Akron, a scant 11 miles away.
Floral Foam Block Being Scaled by Hand, Circa 1960
Hand Packing Floral Foam Bricks into Cartons, Circa 1962
Original Smithers-Oasis Denmark Manufacturing Facility, Circa 1963
OASIS® Floral Foam Filler "Stix"
OASIS® Floral Foam #5 O'BOWL® Container
The early block process of manufacturing, shown here, produced a block which was initially scaled by hand. After shaving the paper, the foam block was then “slabbed” and bricked, then sprayed with a wetting agent to aid absorption and finally packaged.
The company rapidly developed its facilities at the Kent site. Part of the Tru-Car Corporate building was rented from E.L. “Lefty” Miller and later purchased outright. Smithers then purchased a nearby Quonset hut and by 1957, the company had constructed a building to connect the two.
A year later, an office building was added. The following year, the B-Z machine shop was leased. The original plant, an old wood-floored building, was almost completely destroyed in 1961 by fire. Only the office, foaming room and newly built shipping docks were saved. The devastating fire, apparently caused by defective wiring, destroyed much of the specially designed production equipment and consumed much of the supply of finished material.
Following the establishment of a plant in Canada in 1962, our company’s first plant outside North America was established in 1963 in Denmark, by Mr. Ib Ingsholt. Ingsholt was a third-generation Danish florist in his prime, twice President for Interflora Denmark, long-standing board member of “Fleurop,” and deeply involved in the Scandinavian florist organizations. It was early in August 1960 when Mr. Ingsholt arrived in Detroit, Michigan to participate in FTD’s 50-year anniversary convention, little knowing that this trip was going to change his life forever. Ingsholt was invited to demonstrate and show European floristry at the FTD convention. Right there on stage, he met his destiny . . . OASIS® Floral Foam. Never mind the demonstration or competition. The important thing was that Ib Ingsholt, right then and there, ordered his first modest few cases of OASIS® Floral Foam to be shipped to Copenhagen, Denmark for use in his own two shops.
After several shipments, some wholesalers took a little interest and the cartons were now opened upon arrival, checked for transport damage – brick by brick – with the good bricks packed again to be distributed through wholesalers, and “imperfect” bricks saved for use in Ingsholt’s own shops. Things developed fast and, as European agent with international connections, the first frail sign of export potential soon became apparent. In 1963, V.L. Smithers Denmark A/S was established and local European production of OASIS® Floral Foam became a reality.
After the introduction of OASIS® “Standard” floral foam bricks, other by-products, foam densities and shapes quickly followed. In 1957, OASIS® Filler Stix, small stick-formed pieces, was one of the first by-products. Used to fill out arrangements in containers, the Filler Stix became a florist staple, which is still found in florist shops today; along with the #5 O’Bowl Container, a plastic utility container still being sold in the U.S. today, designed to hold the #5 OASIS® Floral Foam Cylinder.