Emidio Mele, an immigrant from the small town in Italy called Volturarra Irpina founded Mele in 1912. Emidio immigrated to the USA at the age of 12 in 1896 and lived with a family in New York City that was from his same hometown. Wolfsam and Sachs, a maker of display cases for jewelry, employed Emidio at a very young age. It was here that Emidio learned the ...Read More
Emidio Mele, an immigrant from the small town in Italy called Volturarra Irpina founded Mele in 1912. Emidio immigrated to the USA at the age of 12 in 1896 and lived with a family in New York City that was from his same hometown. Wolfsam and Sachs, a maker of display cases for jewelry, employed Emidio at a very young age. It was here that Emidio learned the trade that would later be the basis of his own company.
In 1912, at the age of 28, Emidio started his own business, Mele Manufacturing. When Mele was established, its focus was on designing and building elegant displays for jewelry store windows. Emidio was the craftsman, salesman, and the deliveryman. One of Emidio’s first customers was Tecla Pearl who sold an exquisite line of pearls and owned a retail store on Fifth Avenue.
The business grew and survived the Great Depression of the 1930’s and early 40’s. The entry of the US into WWII had a tremendous impact on manufacturing since materials were very difficult to obtain for consumer goods. However, the company was fortunate enough to receive orders from the government to design and build the boxes that held the Purple Hearts awarded from the war. These orders helped the company survive during these years.
In the 1940’s, three of Emidio’s four sons joined the company. Edward, the eldest son, joined Mele after graduating from college. Joseph and Raymond both first served in the military, Joseph as a tugboat captain and Raymond as a fighter pilot. In 1947, after the war ended and they both graduated from college, Joseph and Raymond joined the family organization.
During this decade, the demand for consumer goods rose, so the company began to prosper. Mele had a spectacular success with their introduction of a covered jewelry box with a tray that automatically rose as you lifted the lid. In 1948 Macy’s listed this box as one of the ten best-selling holiday gifts in an article featured in Life magazine. Mele was becoming a household name!
In addition to the popular covered jewelry boxes, the company saw much success in the mid 50’s with the introduction of musical jewelry boxes, with the musical movement imported from Switzerland. Shortly after, Mele added a children’s music box with a revolving ballerina, which was an instant success. In the spring of 1957, black lacquer jewelry boxes were being sold in a New York City department store and Mele began importing these also. These Japanese lacquered boxes were an immediate hit. From the lacquer boxes evolved what became known as furniture miniatures, which were small versions of various styles of furniture. These are representative of many of the styles featured in today’s Mele jewelry box collection.
By the 1950’s, Mele had experienced spectacular growth, and had facilities in seven locations in New York State, including one in the Kerk Guild building in Utica, NY. Due to so many locations, the company decided to consolidate to a single location to be more efficient. In 1956, the entire Mele operation was moved to a 450,000 sq. foot complex in Utica, New York, which had formerly housed the Utica Knitting Company Mill. This relocation allowed the company to continue to grow and add additional lines to the Mele organization.
Over the following years, Mele acquired a group of companies ranging from packaging to modular flooring. In 1961, E & A Gunther Co. was purchased, which was selling jewelry boxes in Canada, and later was named Gunther Mele. Also In 1961, the Farrington Packaging division was purchased, which produced custom packaging. In 1968, Mele purchased Lionite Ltd., which became the European manufacturer of jewelry boxes known today as Lionite Mele Ltd. Six years later, Blue Star Leather was purchased, specializing in handcrafted leather desk accessories, which today is also the exclusive distributor of the dated products and specialty books branded Leathersmith of London. The following year in 1975, Mateflex, a plastic injection modular flooring company, became part of the Mele organization. Farrington Loose Leaf – a bookbinder manufacturer- was purchased in 1985.
Today, the company is known as the Mele Companies in order to encompass all divisions. Recently, they moved all of their operations, except the Farrington division, to a newer more efficient facility – still in the city of Utica. They have a long history in this city and are proud that they have been able to maintain a presence in a city rich in Italian heritage, just like the company. Their new facilities have allowed them to be much more productive in all aspects, allowing them to serve customers even more efficiently. Mele is the foremost name in jewelry cases and they aim to continue leading this category well into the future. Their jewelry boxes can be found in department stores, jewelry stores, independent gift stores, children’s stores and luggage stores throughout the country. Throughout their history, they have developed strong relationships with retailers throughout the country, while still maintaining the Mele Family atmosphere. It is their goal to continue cultivating these relationships and adding many new ones to the Mele Family in the years to come and to continue as “America’s Foremost Name In Jewelry Cases Since 1912!"