(WHAS11) It was the age of bell bottoms, polyester and disco, and Yolanda Baker remembers it well. “There was always music,” Baker recalls. “The girls liked their music; they liked to work to the music."
The year was 1968 when Baker started working at Omega National Products on Baxter Avenue making disco balls. Thirty girls spent their days feverishly gluing pieces of mirror and turning out about a 100,000 shiny globes a year at the height of the disco craze.
“England started them in the late 1800's, they were really big in the speakeasies,” said Omega’s customer service manager Toni Lehring. “We didn't start making them until the 1950's.” Disco started burning up dance floors in the 1970s and Omega National Products was burning up the sales.
The company was producing 90 percent of all the disco balls in America and generating about $1 million a year at the height of the dance craze, but then the music stopped. Yolanda is one of just six people who still work in the Omega manufacturing building.
“It's really disappointing, because I had so many people working with me,” says Baker. “I miss all the people, really.” The demand may have dropped but disco is still alive and well in Louisville. Disco balls are just a fraction of what the company is now making; they’re “Stayin’ Alive” still using mirrors to make magic in other ways.
“They’re going into a lot of hotels; the W Hotels, the Knickerbocker Hotel has them as headboards,” said Lehring. “It is just a phenomenal product. Coach Purses use the mirrored backs in their display cases, as does Bebe shop.”
It's a new look for an old product; a way to keep this business boogying, and it's working. They still make about 20 disco balls a month; you might have seen them on stage with Madonna, Kid Rock, or even hanging from the top of Madison Square Garden.
“Those are luxury items. These are niche products that we manufacture,” said Lehring. “I just think it's wonderful that we can hang on to our business and be able to compete." A business that is surviving, even thriving and they're still having a ball.
“We'll just keep on making disco balls forever and ever,” said Lehring. “I'm serious; I don't think it will ever stop!"
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