[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank.]
EAST LIVERPOOL — Twister Display, a local amusement and carnival game manufacturer, is on track to sell its 10,000th dunk tank this week.
Located at 49207 Calcutta-Smith Ferry Road, Twister Display sells a variety of amusement games and rentals like dunk tanks, high striker bells, cash-grab machines, Tic-Tac-Toss and various portable sports games.
Twister Display was purchased by Harry Smith in 1988 and relocated to the Mahoning Valley from Fort Myers, Fla.
Harry Smith still heads the company as the president of Twister Display with the assistance of his two sons, Jeff Smith, vice president; and Jay Smith, marketing manager.
“We try to kind of stay up to speed with the times. Whatever is popular, we try to come up with a version that’s got our own little spin on it, keeping in mind the fact that our customers need it to be portable, and very durable because it is the rental market,” Jay Smith said.
Jay told Mahoning Matters that his father’s decision to purchase Twister Display was the result of leaving his career as an engineer for Westinghouse Electric.
“They gave him the option of moving to South Carolina or a severance pay,” he said. “He just decided he [didn’t] want [to work] for somebody [else] and wanted to be his own boss [and] start a business.”
After researching various business models, Harry came across Twister Display, “a quirky little business that made dunk tanks.”
His father purchased the company because he wanted “to do something that is fun and that makes people laugh, something that puts a smile on people’s faces," Jay said.
Over the years, Twister Display has evolved from portable dunk tanks at county fairs to a global operation that’s generated millions of dollars and has serviced every continent — except for Antarctica.
Now, 90% of the amusement manufacturer’s clients are rental companies.
“When my dad took over, it was right around the time that they started making backyard inflatables that rental companies were renting for birthday parties and those types of things. Our dunk tanks paired really well with that for the party rental side so we started selling to rental companies,” Jay said.
Additionally, Twister Display has sold dunk tanks to the military for their morale departments, and still has various clients in the amusement park and carnival industry.
“It's a team effort. We've had a lot of really great employees over the years, and they always come into the business with ideas of their own and, [there’s] a lot of creative thinking that goes on here with all of our employees," Jay said. "That's what's kept us going.”