Frank Kenna III, president of The Marlin Company, stands in front of the company's latest product � digital signage. The company is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. | (Eric Vo / Record-Journal)
September 18, 2013 06:28PM
By Eric Vo
WALLINGFORD — Known as the “workplace communication experts,” the Marlin Co. has spent a century helping companies communicate with employees.
From a print publication to digital signage, the family-owned company at 10 Research Parkway celebrated its 100th anniversary with an open house on Thursday. The Marlin Co. was the first to create digital signage— a method to convey information using a television and the Internet. The television displays various kinds of information, which the company produces. A company using digital signage can also display its own information.
The company was founded by Frank Kenna in 1913 on Chapel Street in New Haven as Illustrated Current News, according to his grandson, Frank Kenna III. His grandfather would buy news photos and sell them to companies in the area. Business owners would hang the photos in their windows to provide information about current events and lure people to shop at their stores.
“It was big news because there was no TV and no radio,” Frank Kenna III said. “So when you saw this stuff, it was the first time you saw it.”
In the 1920s, Illustrated Current News purchased Marlin Firearms. In 1942, the name was changed from Illustrated Current News to Marlin Industrial Division. Frank Kenna III’s father, Frank Kenna Jr., was the president of the firearms company. In 1989, the name of the entire company became “The Marlin Company.” Marlin Firearms was sold to Remington in 2008 — the year the company moved from North Haven to Wallingford.
Frank Kenna III said the company moved because it was growing. Doreen DeSarro, business recruiter for the town’s Economic Development Commission, worked with The Marlin Company on the move.
“They asked us for information so they would feel a sense of community and comfort,” DeSarro said. “... That was impressive to me. It seems like that company cares about their employees.”
Realizing manufacturing was a dangerous job and that employees were sustaining injuries, Frank Kenna III said his grandfather put up the current events photos near the safety tips to get people to stop and read them. It was the same method used by business owners in New Haven to gain more customers, he said.
In 2004, the company made a jump from print to digital. It was a move that started after the company purchased a Macintosh computer and laser printer in the late 90s. In total, the purchase cost $15,000, Frank Kenna III said.
The Marlin Company puts out seven editions, or categories of information, displayed on the televisions — hospitality, transportation, industrial, health care, warehouse, utility and sanitation. Each television displays information related specifically to its respective edition. For example, the transportation edition included a video of a tractor trailer crashing into a bridge because it wasn’t high enough.
The videos are purchased through a stock video company, Frank Kenna III said. The other information is created in-house. The company has an editorial staff, cartoonist and artists, Frank Kenna III said.
The building itself is a mixture of the past and present time. In a glass case in a conference room, products the company used to make are showcased, including razor blades, machine guns, hair brushes and handcuffs. In the lobby, a red bicycle is propped against the wall. The bike was made in 1938, when Marlin manufactured bikes and rented them for 15 cents a day.