HENRYETTA, Okla. (KTUL) — A lot of hard-working Oklahomans face a daily struggle to keep their paychecks coming. A legendary company in Henryetta is fighting to survive in the face of cheap Chinese imports, undercutting their top notch duck decoys.
Jobs and an Oklahoma tradition hang in the balance.
The G&H Decoys company started in a building with a pot bellied stove back in 1934.
They're still at it and hope to continue as long as ducks and geese arrive every fall. This is the third generation family company that's now run by 84-year-old Duck Gazalski.
As a young marine in Korea in the 1950s, he worried about the Chinese involvement in the war.
These days, they're in the back of his mind every day when it comes to profits.
"I have no anger against 'em. They gotta make a living just like we do. It’s just the fact is that we can’t compete with 'em, with their labor," said Gazalski.
He says his Chinese competitors pay $2 to $3 an hour, so he competes with tight business practices and Oklahoma ingenuity.
Ingenuity that creates things like retractable anchor lines.
"You just reach out and snap, and throw it in the boat. These are the kind of things that are unique, and they mean something to the hunter," said Gazalski.
He's also me up with kite decoys that attracts birds with movement.
Plus motorized ducks that swim and splash on battery power.
They even sell decoys that move back and forth using only the power of a stream's current.
They know the Chinese will eventually copy their ideas, but G&H has one thing they won't duplicate -- Oklahoma quality.
Cheap Chinese decoys don’t last.
"You're gonna be having paint flake; you're gonna have structural problems... they'll fade and what not, and they'll be having to change that in the next one, two, three years. We don't expect that out of our decoys," said Ward Motes, who is part of the marketing team.
Their birds are foam filled, so they can’t leak or sink.
To sell the quality to a new generation of hunters, they're working hard on social media.
The people in the shop say they know it’s a good product.
"It gives you a sense of pride knowing that you’re building something that generations of families have enjoyed and passed on to their children and grandchildren. It gives you a sense of pride to keep that going as best you can," said shop manager Stony Taber.
While G&H is holding its own, they have about $2 million worth of equipment that's sitting idle. With a little bit of help from Uncle Sam to level the trading playing field, all these machines could be at work.
They'd like some help from the businessman who's president, but like that young Marine, they'll continue to adapt and overcome.
"I thank God every day, and everybody else does in the plant, that we have decent salary wages comin' in here those people over there live without," said Gazalski.
There's no question these people know how to compete on every level.
Last fall, they entered the Henryetta's Labor Day parade for the first time in years.
They won first prize in Henryetta.
They're still making their way, but even the weather has been tough on them in recent years. A series of mild winters hasn't pushed the ducks as far south as usual, so decoy sales are down all over the southern US.