Article written by Alan Morrell and featured in the Democrat & Chronicle. Click here to view original article

As the owner of Mahany Welding Supply, Michael Krupnicki knows well about the shortage of skilled workers in areas like welding.

So, when he designed the company’s new headquarters years ago, Krupnicki included a training lab to teach welding. The response was so great that Krupnicki spun off a new business, Rochester Arc + Flame Center on the same campus in Gates.

It’s not just about welding at the center. Classes are offered in a variety of other areas — glass arts, “smithing” (think blacksmithing) and jewelry-making — as well, and Krupnicki said more than 7,000 people have taken classes since the center opened in 2012.

“You can be six years old or 96 years old, and there’s something you can enjoy,” Krupnicki said. “We have something for every interest level and price level. It’s definitely a unique experience.”

Arc + Flame Center offers credit-bearing classes, continuing-education-style courses and those for what Krupnicki calls “curiosity-seekers” — people who are looking for something fun and unusual to do. There’s even an option called “date night,” where participants learn how to make, for example, a tiki torch or a metal “rose.”

Welding classes, of course, are still offered. The center offers a certification program through a partnership with Monroe Community College to get students job-ready. Krupnicki said the center graduates 50 to 64 students each year and has a placement rate of 85 percent. Some might be workers who inherited welding as a job duty when their company’s welder retired, Krupnicki said. “There’s a group who enjoy working on hot rods, or farmers who are fixing their equipment,” he said.

Getting back to the company roots, Krupnicki notes that Mahany Welding Supply doesn’t do welding.

“We’re an industrial distributor,” he said. “We’re not a welding shop at all. We’re in the distribution business. We purchase the supplies and sell them to the end user.”

Those supplies could be welding or cutting equipment, industrial gasses, abrasives or personal-safety gear. Customers include construction companies, vehicle repair and maintenance shops, and farmers.

Mahany Welding started in 1946. Krupnicki’s father, Theodore, bought the business in 1959 and it’s been in the family since then. Michael Krupnicki started working at Mahany Welding Supply right after graduating high school in 1982.

“It was my calling, what I was meant to do,” he said. Krupnicki took college classes over the years and finished with a master’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology’s executive MBA program.

The business was on Field Street for decades until the move in 2001 to its current site.

“I wanted to change our appearance, how the showroom is laid out,” Krupnicki said of the move to Gates.

That included adding the training lab that begat Rochester Arc + Flame Center. And that’s where thousands of people have gone to learn welding, or to have a different kind of date night.