Calzone Case Co: Decades Later, Still Setting Standards

by Mike Wharton
in Company 411
Joe Calzone at the design desk.
Joe Calzone at the design desk.

"It all started with a trap case,” recalls Joe Calzone, as he reflects on the case making company he founded in 1975. The legendary company, now known as Calzone and Anvil Case, celebrated its 40th anniversary last year. Recognized as the largest fabricated case manufacturer in the world, the name is synonymous with protective cases across a broad spectrum of industries other than rock-n-roll.

    Early Days
As a touring musician in the early 70’s, Calzone built his first cases for his own drum kit, with the help of his father, Joe Jr., who owned an HVAC metal working shop, and his uncle Frank, a carpenter.
“What happened was, our keyboard player took delivery of his first Anvil case for his Mini-Moog and ARP Odyssey. Man, as young musicians, when we got that case, we felt like we were on our way.” Owning an Anvil case meant, “You had arrived!” Upon seeing the case, Calzone decided he wanted to build cases for his own instruments. The process ignited a desire to start a business building cases for musicians.

Calzone's 40-plus year history goes back even further through the companies it has acquired. Anvil Cases, which Calzone acquired in 1996, traces its history back to 1952. Anvil Case photo by Denise Malone
Little did he know at the time that 20 years later, he would acquire the Anvil Company, founded by the Vallas family in 1952. This and six other acquisitions along the way, such as Excalibur and Ascot, would comprise the nucleus that defines Calzone as the respected brand it is today.
“For the first five years or so, I didn’t draw a paycheck,” he says with a chuckle, so he continued playing with his band parlaying one passion into another to build his second dream.
Initial success came about when friends of Joe’s formed the Kramer Guitar company. Calzone became the exclusive case supplier for all of Kramer’s guitars and basses. A succession of landmark accounts began with Carmine Appice, Joe’s longtime friend and drum teacher, who was playing with Rod Stewart at the time. Soon, other bands such as Wishbone Ash, followed by Twisted Sister and Springsteen’s “Born in USA” tour, brought wider recognition to the Calzone name.

    Growth and Innovation
An early motto, “Innovators — not imitators,” emphasized the idea that “we wanted to come up with our own designs and construction methods.” The use of aluminum window frame double-angle extrusions provided quicker assembly of case formation by allowing the wood to simply slide into position. Split rivets enhanced a sleeker overall look, which became the first version of the company’s hallmark Double Angle Case.
Quickly outgrowing their small warehouse in Norwalk, CT, the Calzone company relocated to Bridgeport, CT in 1983. At the time, Bridgeport was the epicenter of a veritable Who’s Who of suppliers and manufacturers, such as J.H. Sessions, who developed all their trunk hardware. USM, the originator of the pop rivet, Simmons Fastener’s butterfly latches, Stocker Hinge, attaché latch maker Excelsior Hardware and Bassick Casters were practically within walking distance of Calzone’s 30,000 square-foot facility. Milford Rivet Company was also close enough to collaborate with Calzone on innovative riveting machine options to help the operators more easily set the famous split rivets.
“All these manufacturers were more than willing to work with us on creating innovative techniques and technology,” says Calzone.

    Setting Standards
That initiative by Calzone has been the bedrock of its ongoing motto, “To build the highest quality custom case in the world, at a fair price with on-time delivery.”
To accomplish this, Joe notes the company is “somewhat reactive, while very proactive and market driven,” always seeking new materials and components to improve its products.
One such product is the Strongbox Case, a popular “truck pack” style case. Made of 3/4-inch Russian birch, it features Calzone’s proprietary Protex embossed black coating, a finish touted as having the strength of a truck bed liner to resist impact damage. The three-part hinge, developed in part by Calzone, is powder-coated black, along with the handles, stacking caster wells and all fasteners, creating an overall cool, stealth-like appearance. It folds fully back against the rear of the case and will not spring, break or pull away from the case, even under the toughest handling. The pocket doors recess into the case, eliminating the need to remove and store the doors elsewhere.
All tongue and groove valances are precision machined to a tolerance within four thousandths of an inch, which eliminates that age-old hassle of matching lids to cases.
These user-friendly products save time and money, ultimately translating into better efficiencies for sound companies and touring productions. Other sectors using Calzone products include the aerospace, medical, sporting and broadcast industries. The company’s products are even used by the White House’s Communications Office, which relies on Calzone cases to protect its sensitive gear.

Calzone Case's new Industrial Elegance line of products includes furniture, desks and conference tables, among other items with a distinctly rock 'n' roll vibe.

    On The Horizon
Looking ahead, it’s evident that Calzone execs have been thinking out of the box. “We have an entirely new product line designed with the same iconic look of Anvil Cases, called ‘Industrial Elegance,’” says marketing director Rene Elizondo. The line of roadworthy furniture, such as end tables, entertainment systems, desk, and conference tables, “Give home offices that rock ‘n’ roll feel synonymous with the Anvil name,” he adds.
Other new products in Calzone’s future include luggage and mobile device cases for the consumer market under the banner, “Bring the Concert Home With You.”
Still a family business, the company has grown to be a worldwide concern. Joe’s brother, Vin, company VP, came onboard in 1976, while nephew Tim, worked his way through the ranks to become the current production manager. Of the 91 employees, many have been with the company 20-plus years, some more than 30.
“We do everything we can to support our most valuable asset, our employees,” says Joe, “by continually expanding our customer base without compromising quality and delivery, which translates into controlled growth and job security.”  

For more info, go to www.calzonecase.com,  or visit booth #2345 at LDI.