Steck Manufacturing Company, Inc.
An employee with a great idea inspired George Steck to start Steck & Sharp, a post World War II manufacturing company. As founder of Steck's Paint & Body Shop in Dayton, Ohio, George was intrigued by the employee's idea for a fastener that could install a nut on the backside of a panel - from the outside - for the installation of bolt-on rear fenders.
"My dad had a background in manufacturing during the war," explained Raymond Steck. "This was a natural extension of it. So he and his partner went into the manufacturing business."
But when car designs changed from bolt-on to welded fenders, business slowed down. George and his partner split, but that didn't stop the ideas from coming. George began to sell the tools he had designed for use in his own body shop. Over time, that became the business' focus.
By the early 1950s, George changed the name of the company to reflect its products more accurately. Steck Manufacturing Company, Inc. became known as the company that produced tools for collision repair. Early on, George found an enthusiastic staff in his family, particularly his children.
"I helped out on Saturdays and during the summer with my brothers and sisters, even as early as grade school," said Raymond. "Steck Manufacturing is very much a family business though I'm the only family member remaining."
After decades overseeing the company, Raymond recently retired to a new role. He now serves as treasurer and handles administrative duties. John Brill, who brought ideas for new methods and markets to the company, has taken the helm as president.
"We're known for our products and always having something new," said Brill. "When we go to trade shows, technicians will stop by our booth to ask, 'What's new?' We tend to release a new product once a quarter."
Steck Manufacturing Company's most popular tool, The BigEasy lockout, was introduced a decade ago. The tool unlocks just about any vehicle on the road without damaging the door. It includes either a hard plastic or an inflatable wedge to open the rear corner of a front door so a long tool can reach inside to manipulate the lock.
"It's a product that is quite popular with salvage yards and tow trucks," said Brill.
Other products include body shop equipment and painting tools. The business relies on innovation and is on the lookout for the next best seller.
"Most of our new products come from ideas submitted by technicians in the field," said Raymond. "The BigEasy was created by a tow truck operator in Cody, Wyo. Necessity is the mother of invention and if you've invented it, we can refine and market your idea. Best of all, we pay royalties to anyone who submits an idea that we use."
The business sells its tools to a wide range of wholesale customers including automotive distributors, paint and body warehouses, independent tool truck drivers, the major tool truck companies, tow truck distributors, catalog suppliers and the public safety market. It doesn't sell direct to the consumer, for safety issues. But it does ship worldwide by UPS, DHL, FedEx and others.
"We're all about customer service," explained Brill. "Our goal is to have the product in the hands of the customer in three business days."
Most of the company's tools are manufactured or assembled in Dayton but some are imported. The tools carry a standard 90-day warranty from the date of purchase.
The business remains dear to the hearts of both men. "This is a very casual atmosphere where everyone gets along," said Raymond. "It's just fun to come to work."
Owners: Private Owners
Location: Dayton, Ohio
Years In Business: 63
Number of Employees: 17