Lisa Allen, Donald Levinson Entering Wheeling Hall of Fame
WHEELING — Two of Wheeling’s most influential business people — one who pushed the borders of a local frozen treat company across the nation and another who opened the doors to what cable television could provide — will be honored this year with induction into the Wheeling Hall of Fame.
Lisa Allen, chairman of the board of directors at the Ziegenfelder Company, and the late Donald Levinson, founder of the WACO cable television company, will join eight others who will be honored at a ceremony at 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at WesBanco Arena.
A Wheeling native and Triadelphia High graduate, Allen started her career with various roles with the YMCA and Oglebay Park before moving to the Ziegenfelder Company in 1999 as a sales representative. The daughter of Roslyn Lando and the late Charles Lando, Allen’s move to Ziegenfelder allowed her to work directly with her father and share business strategies.
Just four years later in 2003, Allen became Ziegenfelder’s president and chief executive officer. From there, she led the company through years of product development, growth, expansion, and profitability.
Under Allen’s leadership, Ziegenfelder added manufacturing plants in Denver, Colorado, and Chino, California, to its Wheeling headquarters. The company’s Budget Saver Assorted Twin Pops also exploded in popularity and reach, becoming the top ice pop in retail outlets where it is sold. With that, Ziegenfelder has become a top-ranking water ice brand in the United States.
Allen also has nurtured the company’s workforce, called the “Zieggy Tribe,” promoting a vision of “Growing Better Together” and putting forth her mantra of “inspiring others, creating smiles, and impacting lives.” She retired as president and CEO of the Ziegenfelder Company in December 2019, but has maintained her seat as chair of the board of directors, along with her majority interest in the Ziegenfelder Company. Ziegenfelder and with various other organizations.
Allen serves as trustee for the Oglebay Foundation, trustee for the J.B. Chambers Foundation, trustee for Wheeling Country Day School, and as a board member for Classrooms Without Borders. She also serves as a board member of Milo’s Tea Company based in Alabama.
Born in 1919 in Pittsburgh, Levinson did not take long to make a significant mark in the field of communication technology. During World War II, he worked on radar, notably inventing the “Echo Box,” a device used to calibrate radar equipment. That box became standard for pre-mission testing of airborne radar and used during the war to test a system that warned of attacking planes. Levenson received a presidential citation for that breakthrough.
He moved to Wheeling in 1947 and became vice president of his family’s business, Reichart Furniture Company, but still maintained an interest in engineering. He started experimenting with community antenna television (CATV) in 1951, and later created the Wheeling Antenna Company (WACO), incorporating the company in 1952. That year, WACO broadcast the first cable television signal in downtown Wheeling, showing President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s election. Within one year WACO offered customers multiple channels and was Wheeling on the map as being among the first cities in the United States with cable television.
Levenson developed a number of inventions with WACO, including a simultaneous summation
sweep technique, which could accurately identify malfunctions within the cable system without
interrupting customers’ services. WACO eventually grew to more than 25,000 subscribers in Eastern Ohio and the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.
Levenson and WACO worked with the City of Wheeling to donate cameras and audio equipment in council chambers, radios and breathalyzers to the Wheeling Police Department, and video and tape decks for the Wheeling Fire Department.
Levinson, who died in 1978, also was active in the Wheeling Civitan Club, the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, Temple Shalom, was a member of B’nai B’rith, and a charter member of the Good Zoo at Oglebay Park.