My interest in vintage cast iron started some years back with the purchase of a pretty Griswold gem pan. I was looking at an auction sale site for a particular vintage dinnerware pattern (Metlox Poppytrail California Mobile), and recalled that I had recently read the certain cast iron cookware was collectible. I remembered the name “Griswold.” I did a quick search on the sale site and saw that many people were bidding on a particular Griswold gem pan. I swooped in and bought it. Once received, I could see that it was a beautiful pan. I was impressed by the fine casting and care that had obviously gone into its creation.
Not being one to do things half-heartedly, I next went to an auction in Minnesota and purchased about 60 very crusty and rusty pieces of vintage cast iron cookware. I had no idea what I was in for. It was quite a job to restore the pieces. I dove into learning how to clean, restore, and season vintage cast iron cookware, and how to identify the manufacturer of the pieces. I pored over the internet, and read cast iron forums. I bought and read books. I joined groups and talked to long-time collectors. I began looking for and purchasing more iron cookware, cleaning and restoring the pieces, and started selling pieces on eBay and Craigslist. I began cooking almost exclusively in cast iron – I liked that it was “green” and non-toxic, and I appreciated that many of the pieces had been on this earth longer than I. I liked the lighter weight of the vintage pans as well as the beautiful smooth cooking surface. I enjoyed working with the old pieces. I love the fine casting and beauty, appreciate the history, and was proud to put the old pieces – many sorely neglected – back into homes where they would be used and enjoyed.
I found that there was an active market for vintage and antique cast iron cookware. My CPA brother-in-law told me that once you start making money, the IRS considers your “hobby” a business. And so The Pan Handler LLC was born. I registered the business, obtained a trademark, created the ecommerce site from scratch, and started listing and selling pans globally on the internet. I created social media channels and began blogging about vintage and antique cast iron cookware. You can see the blog posts I wrote about vintage and antique cast iron from 2012 – 2017 at the blog section of The Pan Handler site.
The business grew and became successful. In 2015 I retired from my full-time job and devoted all of my time – and then some – to the business. I travelled across the country – usually with my accomplice Linda – in search of iron to restore and put back into use. The business and I were fortunate enough to garner some media attention, and I had the opportunity to do some writing for Southern Cast Iron magazine, which I really enjoyed. Sales were brisk and I found that I was pretty much spending all of my waking hours working on cast iron in one form or another.
One beautiful weekend in 2016 I went sailing with friends. I was away from the computer and phone. I relished the peace and quiet. I came to the realization that I wanted to stop and smell the roses more than I was able to do while running the business. And so, I sold the business effective January 1, 2017.
Selling the business didn’t diminish my love of the iron, however. I still enjoyed learning and and sharing information about these old pieces. And so, I continued to blog a bit about iron in 2017. On August 25, 2017, however, Hurricane Harvey hit Rockport Texas, forcing a hiatus from my blogging efforts. My elderly (98 and 89) parents were displaced, and their home was damaged. Since then, I have spent about half-time in Texas, re-settling my parents and repairing their home and replacing items lost. I have feel very fortunate that I have had the time to assist them in this way – it feels like serendipity.
In April 2018, Linda and I went to the 2018 GCICA convention in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Doris approached me and invited me to take over this site. Doris and her late husband Bob are charter members of the Griswold & Cast Iron Cookware Association. Doris started this site some 20 years ago to provide education and information to collectors and other enthusiasts of vintage and antique cast iron cookware. You can find the pages created by Doris in the blog – click on the category “Doris Mosier” and they will come up.
When Doris extended the invitation, I gave it some thought. I realized that while running the business what I was most interested in was learning about the iron, the people who used it, the stories attached to the iron, and those who use and/or collect it now. I love thinking about these old pieces and where they have been and what they might have been used for, and am happy that others share this same interest and want to preserve these valuable pieces and stories of our American history. There are so many folks out there now who are excited about using and collecting vintage and antique iron – far more than when I began my cast iron adventure. It is fun to meet and share with others who have the same interest and enthusiasm about these old pieces. I was and am honored that Doris has trusted me with this legacy.
On this site, I’d like to share stories with you about the old iron – collectors and collections – as well as share information about vintage and antique cookware. I hope you’ll join me on this new journey!
Best, Mary Theisen