Elsie Mundkowsky might not be a conventional finishing-shop owner, but she’s a textbook entrepreneur.
Mundkowsky is self-taught in both business and deburring work. Family photos and a granddaughter’s artwork adorn the walls of her West Springfield business, E.A. Mundkowsky Finishing.
But Mundkowsky’s story is one of a true entrepreneur.
In 1993, as a mother in her 40s, she was looking for some extra money. When her husband brought home some metal pieces that needed filing, she took on the challenge, setting up a station in their garage.
The work was new to her. At first, she says, she looked at those 2,000 pieces and cried. And then she picked up a hand file, figured out the process, and got to work.
“I fell in love with the work,” she says. “I fell in love with the challenges.”
That love – and a passion for the business – pushed her to expand. She used her $83 paycheck from that first filing job to purchase a machine to make the work easier.
She continued to take on work and invest in equipment, eventually outgrowing her garage. She purchased a neighboring plot of land and built a shop, then added on to that facility to accommodate growing orders.
Today, the work has slowed from its heyday in the early 2000s. Mundkowsky is ready to retire, and is interested in finding the right buyer who will build on the business that she is proud to have created.
“I’d like to be able to watch this place keep going from across the yard,” she says.
About E.A. Mundkowsky Finishing: The business specializes in deburring and secondary machining. As Mundkowsky explains, “We don’t make anything. We make it better.” In the shop, we watched as metal pieces were added to a large drum – like a giant washing machine, Mundkowsky said – and were agitated around in tiny ceramic pellets. When they emerged, they were put into a second drum to dry and then were ready to go, smooth and polished. Today, the work is done by Mundkowsky and her husband, down from a staff of about 15 when the shop was at its busiest.
Why Erie County: Mundkowsky sees a lot of benefit in the people of Erie County. “Most people are good people,” she says. And she credits a lot of those good people with helping her along the way as she created, and then expanded, her business.
Challenges of Erie County: Mundkowsky has experienced not just the struggles of running a small business, but the challenges of doing so as a woman. It hasn’t been easy to make a name for herself in a field normally dominated by men, she says.
Fun Fact: Elsie Mundkowsky’s shop is located on land that once was home to another woman-run enterprise. She purchased the land from the great-grandchildren of a woman who used to grow onions in that field.