In 1910, master cutlery grinder Silvio Angelo Lorenz immigrated to Salt Lake City, purchased a horse-drawn wagon to house his pedal grindstone, and started traveling around the valley sharpening knives for butchers and restaurants in exchange for food, money and a place to sleep.
In 1917, Lorenz opened a stand-alone shop, Lorenz Grinding, at 147 W. 200 South. Years later, he and his son Louis moved the store to a new spot on 400 South and about 300 West.
The store operated there until earlier this year, when the owners decided to close the shop and return to the company's mobile roots.
Instead of a horse and wagon, current owner Mark Woodward drives a large van equipped with high-quality electronic sharpening tools. He travels to homes and businesses, sharpening all kinds of dull metal, including knives, axes, scissors, garden tools and lawn mower blades.
"We stick to the company's roots," said Woodward, who worked in the glass business for 20 years before purchasing the shop a month after Louis Lorenz died. "We offer a full service just like they did in the old days."
In addition to making house calls, Lorenz Mobile Sharpening also is a new vendor at Salt Lake City's Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park and the Wednesday Park City Market. Now through October, customers can bring their dull blades to the either market and Woodward will sharpen them while they wait. Sharpening costs 75 cents an inch.
While the notion of a mobile service is nostalgic, it was the economic downturn that led Woodward to change the direction of the century-old business.
"Turning mobile helped cut costs so we could stay in business," he said.
Thinking ahead was something the founder did many times through the years to stay afloat. "It wasn't easy for Lorenz, but he managed to stay open through all of the major wars and hard economic times," said Woodward, who has followed the founder's patterns and kept the business a family affair. His wife, three sons, and daughter are all involved in the company.
While some people may miss the store, customer Greg Leatherman prefers the mobile business. "I love the convenience," he said.
Besides residential sharpening, Lorenz Mobile sharpens blades for a range of businesses, including restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, grocery stores and bakeries. Woodward said his most unusual request was sharpening a mortician knife.
Not surprisingly, Woodward is an avid cook with an extensive collection of culinary knifes at home. His biggest pet peeve is when he sees knives that have been put in the dishwasher. Knives should always be washed by hand, he said. The high heat in the dry cycle of a dishwasher and the chemicals in the detergent will ruin them, even if the manufacturer instructions say that it's safe.
Ultimately, he said, a sharp knife is a tool that can save people time and energy. "It makes it so the knife is doing the work, not you."
Sharpening on the go
Mark Woodward, owner of Lorenz Mobile Sharpening, travels to homes and businesses to sharpen kitchen knives, shears, axes, garden tools and lawn mower blades. The company has been in business more than 100 years.
Cost • 75 cents per inch for basic sharpening; 89 cents per inch for premium service. Minimum charge of $40 for home visits. Neighbors and friends can combine orders to meet the requirement.
Where • Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Downtown Farmers Market, Pioneer Park, 300 S. 300 West, Salt Lake City; and Wednesdays from noon to 6 p.m. at the Park City Farmers Market, Canyons Resort, off Highway 224.
Also • Appointments available at 801-363-2821; information at http://www.lorenzsharpening.com