A History of Devon, originally published 8/29/2006
From an article, originally published in Church Supply magazine 8/29/2006
“In America, there a chance for everyone” was David Orzech’s motto when he founded Devon Trading Corporation in 1951. A Holocaust survivor for Poland, David came to America in 1948 and began working for is uncle and aunt who owned a Catholic goods business. After a few years, David decided to go out on his own with twin partner, Sol Gorki and Joseph Speisman.
Their business was originally located in Manhattan and specialized in importing rosary beads, and rosaries and selling them to stores across the country. David and Joseph worked as salesmen, covering the Eastern Seaboard/Midwest and Western states, respectively, while Sol took care of the warehouse and shipping. David’s wife Sophie sometimes worked for the company was well, assembling rosaries at home while she cared for their daughters Fran and Susan.
In character with David’s eagerness to change and develop, Devon was the first company to being importing Italian pewter in the 1960’s and eventually expanded to include items such as nativities and statues. David was also a pioneer in the development of rosary styles and variety. Being the first to import rosaries from Czechoslovakia, a glass capital of the world, David greatly expanded the selection of rosary styles available to the public. This remains a hallmark of the company.
In the early 1970’s Devon encountered a series of changes when Joseph Speisman suddenly passed away. It was around this time that Devon hired it’s first salesmen. Dr. Stephen Felegy joined the company and began covering the Southeast and Western states. He was an extraordinary salesman who was on the road for about ten months each year. David also cut back on his travels because he needed to spend more time in the office and Dick McAllister was hired to cover the mid-west. David busied himself with traveling to Europe to look for more suppliers often spending over a month abroad each year. In 1979 Devon published its first catalogue.
During the 1980’s, Fran, Susan, and Sol’s son Martin began to work in the business, benefitting from the experience they had gathered working at Devon during the summers as teenagers. They were soon joined by Susan’s husband, Andy Leichter. In 1985, Sol Gorki retired and his son left to pursue other interests.
The 1990’s brought many changes and a large expansion of the Communion line. Recognizing a void in the market, Devon contracted an artist and undertook the task of developing a brand new Communion book with original artwork and text. In 1996, Devon published a unique Communion book, which was the first new book to come out on the market in many years.
The booming business had expanded and found larger quarters in New Jersey. Devon bought its own building in North Caldwell, New Jersey in 1995. The beautiful building’s exterior has even been shown on the popular television show, The Sopranos. Devon developed an innovative line of statues depicting Jesus playing various sports with children. These statues were featured on the Today Show with Jay Leno, several afternoon TV Talk shows and appeared as a recurrent theme on the Conan O’Brien show. Devon was also honored to be chosen to provide religious souvenirs for all of the recent Papal visits to New York. When John Paul II las visited the New York area, Devon was selected to provide over 150,000 special commemorative rosaries. The promoters of the event noted that all the various official souvenirs offered for sale at that time, the rosaries were the only items that were successful.
David continued to work hard at Devon for years until he passed away in in early 2000, leaving the business to Fran and Susan. The women along with Andy continue to run the business in keeping with David’s hard-working qualities. As they look ahead to the future, they will strive to continue David’s guiding principles of always providing their customers with excellent products and outstanding service at the best prices.