Gary Chasin and Dan Weisenbach

Gary Chasin (left) and Dan Weisenbach (right)

Columbus lost two prominent local business leaders last year, each embodying one of the three basic principles of environmentalism: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Championing the recycling movement, there was Dan Weisenbach, 53-year-old owner and President of Weisenbach Recycled Products. And, not often thought of as an environmentally-friendly business, but clearly advancing the re-use of items in the spirit of “one man’s trash is another’s treasure,” was Gary Chasin, of Uncle Sam’s Pawn Shop.

Dan Weisenbach, Recycling Superhero

Weisenbach pioneered the production of eco-friendly promotional products made of recycled scrap materials. “Everyone knows Dan was a dogged champion of recycling since he was a teen and convinced the family to create Weisenbach Recycled products,” said Chuck Lynd of Simply Living.

There is a fascinating history chronicling the creativity Weisenbach exhibited in producing essential everyday products out of items that would normally end up in the landfill at The website lists a variety of “firsts” in the field of recycled item inventions. He was the first to print with recycled paper using soy ink. He produced “ecobuttons” – 100 percent recycled paperboard promotional buttons; mouse pads and drink coasters made from tire rubber; ice cream scoops and flower pots made from plastic Stonyfield Farms yogurt cups; and the first 100 percent post-consumer recycled glass round plaques for personalized recognition awards. He collected wine and beer bottles from Columbus restaurants and plastic caps from local zoos and schools to make the products.

The list of items he made out of recycled materials goes on and on: funnels for car fluids from plastic bottle caps, 100 percent recycled plastic wall anchors for LEED Green Building projects, dog tag necklaces promoting the ESPN X-games as contracted by Disney, vases, writing instruments, school supplies, office supplies and tableware.

Often awarded for his innovations, Weisenbach received the “Recycler of the Year” award from the Association of Ohio Recyclers, and the Bronze Environmental Excellence Award for Most Environmentally Conscious Printer (Under 25 Employees) by American Printer Magazine, to name a few. His company was not only eco-friendly, but people-friendly, too. Weisenbach Recycled Products was honored as the “Best Workplace in America 2001” with special recognition as “Best of the Best” as selected by Printing Industries of America and Graphic Arts Technical Foundation.

“Dan was also a strong advocate for local, independently owned businesses, and he served on the Support Our Local Economy (SOLE) Coalition Steering Committee,” Lynd noted, “Dan knew first-hand the challenges of competing with the non-local businesses, but he was successful and always treated his employees well.”

“He will be sorely missed in the business community,” Chuck Lynd stated.

Weisenbach’s passion for environmentalism led to his involvement with Keep Ohio Beautiful, the city’s Green Team, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Recycling and Litter Prevention Board, the Pelatonia, and Green Columbus. Since 2007, he served on the Green Columbus board, organizing monthly Green Drinks socials and their annual Earth Day events. “Like no other person, Dan embodied the positive environmental ethos of Green Columbus. We were lucky to have him on our board and as a friend,” offered Tad Dritz, founder of Green Columbus.

Weisenbach left an incredible legacy in our city. He served as a role model for conscientious stewardship of our planet, provided a caring work environment, and was an extraordinary community activist. And let’s not forget how he offered us recycled products that we can all use with pride and the satisfaction that we are being “…part of the solution.” Weisenbach Recycled Products is still in business, at 437 Holtzman Ave, Columbus, OH 43205, 614-251-8585, ~ Suzanne Patzer

Rest in Peace, Gary Chasin

The Free Press and the Columbus community lost a dear friend recently. Gary Chasin, owner of the iconic Uncle Sam's Pawn Shop on East Main Street, passed away at age 77 on December 8, 2016  following a sudden illness. Gary was more than a businessman to his customers. He was a friend, benefactor and a compassionate advocate.

My first experience with Gary and Uncle Sam's came many years ago when I was a recent OSU grad starting my first real job. With my car broken down and my checking account running on empty, I needed bus fare for the ride downtown to my new job and money for lunch and other incidentals. With my cassette deck in tow, I caught a ride downtown and got a loan from Gary that tied me over until my first payday. In later years I was a frequent visitor to Uncle Sam's, convincing Gary to buy advertising he didn't really need on whatever radio station I happened to be working for at the time. And most recently, I had the pleasure of dealing with Gary on behalf of the Free Press.

For many who were hard put, hard up and down-on-their-luck, Uncle Sam's was often the only place left to turn. As you might expect from a pawnbroker, Gary could drive a hard bargain. But he had a soft spot for those in need, even if what they brought to his store was of little value or dubious origin. “If you needed money, he was going to give it to you, no matter what it was,” says his daughter Bettye Jane Klinger, “His emotions took over a lot of the day-to-day dealings.”

Nephew Brandon Chasin joined the Uncle Sam's staff after returning from California last summer. He recalls an incident where a pawned Purple Heart was returned to its rightful owner, with nothing asked for in return. He marveled at his uncle's passion for music, and his enthusiasm for frequenting local Jazz and Blues clubs. When a local school's band program was in distress, Gary donated thousands of dollars worth of musical instruments. And Gary was loved by local musicians, many of whom had no money for the tools of their trade. He often loaned or simply gave them instruments, expecting nothing in return.  After store hours, Gary was always on the go somewhere about town, supporting local music. “He was 77 years old and I couldn't keep up with him, and I'm 31” said Brandon, “He was out somewhere every night.” And the musicians returned the love. “He knew everybody, and everybody knew him,” said Klinger.

After graduating from OSU, Gary began working at his father Irving's store, and grew Uncle Sam's into one of the largest pawn shops in the Midwest. From 1990-94 he served as President of the Ohio Pawn Brokers Association. He was an active supporter and donor to many organizations and entities, including Franklin County Children Services, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, CATCO and the Lincoln Theatre, to name just a few.

As for Uncle Sam's, the beat goes on. “We are a part of the fabric of this community,” says Brandon, noting that the family will carry on the tradition. “It's what he would have wanted,” Says Klinger, “We're going to keep it going.” Uncle Sam’s is at 225 E Main St, Columbus, OH 43215, 614-221-7296, ~ Gary Richards



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