MT. JOY, Pa. — Welcome to Bill Baltozer's workshop.
"Welcome" is the operative word.
You feel welcome as soon as you enter the woodwork shop at the rear of his home on appropriately named Wood Street.
The word "welcome" comes at you from every direction. There are the wooden plaques for outdoor or indoor display; there are miniature fence gates and other types of woodcraft, all bearing the legend "welcome."
Baltozer, 58, took early retirement in 1984 after 18 years with Howmet.
But is he really retired? Not unless you call seven 12-hour workdays a week being retired.
The difference is that Bill Baltozer is working now for Bill Baltozer. He's his own boss and loving every minute of it.
"I had to do something. I was getting fidgety. I knew I couldn't just sit around," he said.
Barely a month after retiring, Baltozer and his wife of 35 years, Millie, opened a stand at the Tri-County market and auction near Middletown, where they sold chocolate candy three days a week.
Having done some carpentry and woodwork in previous years, he made several wooden gum-ball machines. They proved a hot item and he made more, selling enough to pay for over $500 worth of woodworking tools--a sander, drill press, band saw and table saw. He turned more to woodcraft, making rabbits, chickens and ducks. The woodcraft items soon began to outpace the candy in sales.
Baltozer was spending more time in his workshop making more welcome plaques and other items, most of them adorned with animals--cats, ducks, chickens, dogs, cows and others. These, too, proved popular.
"We were making something new every week" Baltozer said. "We try to make something original and stick with it. That's the secret. We also try to improve on what we have as we get fresh ideas."
One idea that has paid off was setting up a stand at Ephrata's Green Dragon Farmers Market and Auction. Now, the Baltozers spend 12 hours every Friday at the Green Dragon and 10 hours every Saturday at the Tri-County market.
From Sunday through Thursday, they put in 12-hour days, noon until midnight, making the items for their Friday and Saturday sales. Baltozer turns out the products and his wife does the painting, helped at times by her husband's sister and niece. In a typical week, Baltozer will turn out a dozen welcome plaques, 25 to 30 gates, plus assorted animals.
"Sometimes we work eight days a week," he said with a chuckle.