Gilbert man keeps great-grandfather's legacy alive

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He's the man behind popular eateries in the East Valley, like Joe's Real BBQ and Joe's Farm Grill. But you may not know that Joe Johnston is also a designer of many elements inside his restaurants. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) He's the man behind popular eateries in the East Valley, like Joe's Real BBQ and Joe's Farm Grill. But you may not know that Joe Johnston is also a designer of many elements inside his restaurants. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The Johnston Machine Company was created in 1897. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Johnston Machine Company was created in 1897. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
His latest design: A pen, based on the Saguaro cactus with the Arizona outline on it. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) His latest design: A pen, based on the Saguaro cactus with the Arizona outline on it. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
GILBERT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

He's the man behind popular eateries in the East Valley, like Joe's Real BBQ and Joe's Farm Grill. But you may not know that Joe Johnston is also a designer of many elements inside his restaurants.

In fact, the engineering talents run deep in the Johnston family.

Before Joe created a name for himself as a restauranteur and a successful developer of his family's original farmland in Gilbert, he was already designing and building things. The Johnston Machine Company was created in 1897. 

It's a small shop inside Gilbert's Barnone, Joe's latest creation best described as a craftsman community. 

"We're trying to maintain the family heritage of building things that last," said Joe.

Joe's got some big shoes to fill, his great-grandfather Herbert Johnston invented many of the things you would find in the kitchen including the iconic KitchenAid table-top mixer.

“He was an engineer from Ohio State, was the first quarterback for OSU and he worked with Edison, electrifying the Cincinnati streetcar line and then started applying electric motors to food service equipment," said Joe.

Herbert had 120 patents with Hobart Manufacturing Company.

Some hang at Johnston Machine Company today, the coffee grinder, the meat slicer and a floor mixer are among his creations.

Generations later, that love for design lives on, in Joe.

“I think he'd be blown away with what can be done now. And he'd probably design some new things he couldn't design then,” said Joe.

Joe said like his great-grandfather, he draws by hand on paper, he's old school that way.

Joe's wife Cindy also has a hand in the company doing the admin work.

Another machine Joe likes to use is the 3D printer.

His latest design: A pen, based on the Saguaro cactus with the Arizona outline on it. It takes about two hours to create a pen in this 3D printer.
"I'm super excited about it," said Joe. "To go from a drawing to a physical item and to see people using it, it's super rewarding."  

As long as Joe can come up with the ideas, he'll keep building things and he'll keep his great-grandfather's legacy alive.

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