Monthly Archives: May 2018

24 05, 2018

Medart Engine & Marine

2018-06-20T13:31:48-06:00 May 24th, 2018|Small Time, Big Time Stories|

Medart Engine & Marine

Medart Engine & Marine in Arnold Prospers with Golden Rule of Customer Service

 

106-Year-Old Engine Parts Distribution Company Survived Great Depression, World War II & Employs 135 Today

J.R. Medart was the youngest of four children when their father died in 1910. He became an engine buff and, at age 14, J.R. began to earn money to help support the Medart family by repairing auto parts such as magnetos, starters, and carburetors. Skilled and smart, young J.R. nurtured customers among doctors who needed reliable transportation for house calls near Saint Louis University in the city’s midtown area.

Called “Jimmy” by family, friends, and customers, young J.R. rode a big Indian motorcycle that was bigger than he was. Fitted with leather saddlebags and loaded with engine parts, the motorcycle was J.R.’s regular “ride” to and from the doctors’ offices that he served.

Before long, J.R. was hired by S. G. Hoffman Magneto Co. The owner, Sam Hoffman, paid Jimmy four dollars a week in 1913 to pick up, fix, and deliver engine components after they were repaired.

Jimmy Medart was a go-getter. By 1925, he had saved enough to buy Hoffman’s company. At age 27 he started his own enterprise. He joined the Rotary Club and applied the Club’s four-way test of service above self – “Golden Rule Service” – to his new company, and followed Club guidelines for dealing with manufacturers, customers, and employees (associates):

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill and friendship?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

“My grandfather J.R. was fastidious about his business and careful about saving money,” his grandson J.M. “Mike” Medart, company CEO and President, says today from the company’s headquarters in Arnold at 124 Manufacturers Drive.

“He was a tough, hard-working man, and he cared a great deal about people. We have preserved and respected those guidelines at our company for nearly a century as a value statement for our business and as a tribute to him,” Mike Medart asserts.

In the mid-1920s, J.R. Medart was in the right place at the right time in America’s booming auto industry. He expanded his company service line, hired new employees, and gained new customers.

Then came the Great Depression of 1929. In 1930 he reorganized and renamed his enterprise the Medart Auto Electric Co., Inc.

“It was a very difficult time,” Mike Medart says today. “It was a time when people repaired things rather than buy new things. The company got by with repair work, but I won’t say it flourished.”

“Years later I remember my grandfather telling me that he wanted to keep everybody on the repair staff during the Depression, but that there were some weeks that he could only pay people enough to put food on their table.”

“It was then that the company began the tradition of giving every associate – we call our employees associates – a turkey for Christmas so people would have food on the table. It is a tradition that we continue today.”

When World War II displaced the Great Depression in 1941, J.R. Medart’s company again encountered tough times. “There were shortages of just about everything, and it was a lean time because of workforce depletion – most working men joined the service to fight overseas,” Mike Medart says.

“Although we always have had women associates in our workforce in customer service roles, we introduced more women into our company at that time.”

As the tide of World War II turned in 1944, J.R. Medart introduced the forerunner of a profit-sharing plan for his company associates, an innovation at the time.

“One reason my grandfather cared so much about people is because his own father had died when he was 11 years old, and he knew how difficult it was to keep a family together. So the company bought an annuity contract for every associate. That was a wonderful thing for him to do, and it established a premise for introducing a company profit-sharing plan in the 1950s when Congress authorized those types of plans.”

“We believed then and we believe now that profit-sharing plans empower every associate to think like a company stakeholder,” says Mike Medart.

Medart Engine pioneered development of service training for dealers and customers in the post-War era, conducting seminars and programs so industry representatives and buyers could understand all components of equipment and parts distributed by the company.

Electric Auto-Lite was Medart’s first product line that required distribution and education. At the time, Electric Auto-Lite manufactured more than 400 types of parts, including generators, headlamps, horns, hubcaps, and seat adjustment devices, and was the auto industry’s biggest maker of electrical equipment. Medart conducted education and training sessions for Electric Auto-Lite routinely for many years.

Such in-house innovations were supplemented over the years by instruction from Original Equipment Manufacturers that the company represented, such as Kohler, Oregon, Carlisle, and others. Medart continues to conduct numerous educational programs.

As noted in a historic account of Medart Engine, the company “also operated a large drive-in tune-up and repair shop. At that time  it was one of the finest drive-in repair garages in the Midwest. America had over a hundred car companies, but only a few electrical and carburetion companies, so the need for repair was great. All car dealerships with carburetion and electrical needs came to Medart or one of our authorized dealers in southern Illinois and eastern Missouri.”

“In the 1950s and 60s, the company developed into an automotive warehouse distribution business, renamed Medart Automotive Warehouse. We thrived as a company during these times…During the 1970s competition in the auto industry greatly intensified and a family decision was reached to sell our automotive legacy business, but not our roots. It turned out to be a great long-term decision to focus in the engine and marine industries.”

J.R. Medart

J.R. Medart

James Speed Medart

James Speed Medart

Mike Medart

Mike Medart

The Modern Era

Today, Medart, Inc. is a large regional wholesale distributor representing more than 60 different manufacturers – it handles more than 10,000 parts for virtually all types of gas and diesel engines from its headquarters in Arnold and warehouses in Kansas City and Memphis; the company also has operations in Mobile, Alabama, that only support marine parts. The Medart Marine division is a supply operation for boating, marine, and boat yard industries.

More than 135 full-time Medart associates work to provide equipment, parts, and shipping service solutions for the turf and garden industry; construction and industrial contractors; forestry; small tools and equipment; rental; and marine. Medart Marine has a separate, dedicated sales staff.

“Many of our full-time associates have worked at our company for 20 or 30 years,” says Mike Medart. “We are proud of our associates and their track records. Fifty-five of our 135 full-time Medart associates work in or with our Arnold facilities. The company also employs seasonal temporary employees.“

Speed Medart led the company into the modern era. James Speed Medart was the name that Speed’s father, J.R. Medart, gave him at birth in 1930. Speed “hit the ground running” when he started with the company after college as a young man in progressively responsible jobs. He was named President in 1968 when J.R. Medart became Chairman of the Board.

“My father Speed was very much a ‘people person,’ a very good father, and a great guy who was well-liked within the company, as well as in the industry” says Mike Medart. “He was very outgoing, and we had a ton of fun together.”

Speed’s involvement with industry and trade associations helped him lead the company into new directions and opened new opportunities. He was a member and officer with the Automotive Electric Association, the Engine Service Association, and the National Marine Distributors Association.

As President of his family company, Speed helped develop and expand new office/warehouse facilities for Medart in states outside Missouri, and he established many new distribution relationships with OEMs, including with many well-known product brands.

In 1995, after battling cancer for a number of years, Speed Medart died of leukemia at age 64. Mike Medart was named company CEO and President the year before Speed passed away. “My father Speed died too young,” he says. Speed Medart was beloved by many. Like his father J.R. who founded the company, he had anonymously helped many people who had fallen on hard times.

Mike Medart had worked part-time at the company during his high school and college years. After he earned an MBA at Saint Louis University in 1982 he joined the firm full time, based in the information technology department where he helped modernize some of the company IT operations.

In 1985 he was promoted to Sales Manager at Medart Engine and was named President in 1994 at age 38. “I felt strongly at the time that I had a responsibility to preserve and advance the company’s legacy and traditions,” Mike Medart says.

“I still do today.”

In addition to serving on the boards of several industry associations as both a director and as an officer, Mike Medart serves on the board of the Richard A. Chaifetz School of Business at Saint Louis University.

It was Mike Medart’s decision to move the company’s headquarters to Arnold, beginning with a land purchase in 1997 and then completing two facilities totaling 121,000 square feet in 1999.

“Being located in Arnold has been a positive for our company,” Mike Medart says. “A number of capable and skilled people who live in the area have joined our workforce over the years. The community is a good place to live and work. The fire and police departments have taken good care of us.”

“Our company stands by our motto ‘Real People, Real Service.’ Our most important goal is customer satisfaction, and we believe that commitment is one reason why we have become an industry leader over 106 years in business.”

“I am proud to be the family’s third generation at Medart, Inc., and also to work here with my son Griffin, who is our purchasing manager and represents the fourth generation.”

“Our commitment to providing Golden Rule Service is very much intact.”

Story by Jeff Dunlap

21 05, 2018

Outdoor Park & Golf Course Improvements

2018-05-22T09:52:37-06:00 May 21st, 2018|Latest News|

Arnold’s Parks & Golf Clubhouse Changing for the Better

Expansions, improvements, and new additions to Arnold’s outdoor recreation facilities are changing the City’s landscape for family fun.

The City’s challenging 18-hole public golf course has a new name – Arnold Golf Club – plus a renovated clubhouse with many new features upstairs and downstairs.

The Arnold Farmers Market has added a new Arnold Jaycees Pavilion to provide expanded space for vendors to display their wares and, ultimately, for family events on days when the market isn’t open. The covered pavilion measures 32 ft x 42 ft.

A new 2 ½ acre Dog Park that is being established in Ferd B. Lang Park will have separate fenced areas for large and small dogs to play and run. That’s in addition to the fenced “Paw Park” that already exists inside Arnold City Park.

Arnold’s new, state-of-the art Archery Park will feature 10 regulation targets and 5 shooting lanes from 10 to 50 yards in length when it opens for organized competitive events, practice sessions, schools, and families. It’s located near the corner of Telegraph and Lower Tenbrook Road.

Archery Park, Dog Park, and the Jaycees Pavilion are expected to open in June, depending on spring rains that, to date, have delayed some aspects of construction.

Arnold Golf Club is open for play 7 days a week, except when inclement weather requires closing of the course. The newly upgraded Pro Shop and refreshment areas are open, and the downstairs social area is open and available for reservations. A clubhouse “grand reopening” ceremony will take place soon.

Financial Allocations

In September 2017 the Arnold City Council budgeted a total of $147,000 to build Archery Park ($60,000), Dog Park ($75,000) and to improve the golf course clubhouse ($12,000).

That amount was supplemented by a $25,000 donation from the Arnold Jaycees and $4,000 from the National Wild Turkey Federation’s local “Long Beards” chapter to help fund improvements.

In addition, the City parks improvement initiative received a $130,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation to help build Archery Park.

Arnold Mayor Ron Counts says, “The City had a vision to improve and expand our outdoor recreation facilities. We took the necessary steps to evaluate our options and allocate funds for park improvements and to implement careful, creative planning. Arnold’s outdoor amenities soon will offer more than ever for families, individuals, and visitors.”

In March 2018, the Arnold City Council voted unanimously to change the name of the City’s Pomme Creek Golf Course to Arnold Golf Club to reflect its substantial improvements as well as its association with the City.

The Clubhouse area has been fully upgraded upstairs and downstairs, making it better equipped to host social gatherings and special events.

For example: The Pro Shop and its refreshment area, a total of 1,700 sq ft, were redesigned, renovated, and repainted. It now features new light fixtures, an attractive gas fireplace and hearth, new wood-panel flooring, and comfortable new leather furniture, as well as new decorations.

In addition to fountain sodas, snacks, hot dogs, and beer, the refreshment area offers four different ales on tap and mixed drinks for sale.

Downstairs, a 700 sq ft social area also has been upgraded and painted, including installation of new ceiling fans. Like the main Clubhouse upstairs, this area will be available for special events and auxiliary activities.

Dickie Brown, Arnold Director of Parks & Recreation, says, “Our municipal golf course is being rebranded, and we expect the clubhouse improvements will appeal to members, guests, and visitors.”

David Crutchley, Deputy Director of Parks & Recreation, adds, “We believe the name Arnold Golf Club will resonate with people in metro St. Louis and attract more golfers that want to play a quality 18-hole course with less expensive fees than other municipal courses in the region.”

Betty Boyer, Pro Shop Manager, says, “The Clubhouse upgrades are really great and we’ve also made improvements to the golf course, such as adding new bunkers and challenges. The downstairs social area at the Clubhouse has lots of appeal for special events, and we plan to improve the patio outside soon to add more space for rentals.”

While frequent rainy days this spring have slowed some aspects of construction and outdoor improvements – such as pouring concrete and asphalt, installing roofs, and building a small bridge – the good news is that the City has been able to reduce anticipated costs by utilizing City employees for aspects of the expansion.

A number of City employees with construction experience have helped build the Farmers Market Jaycees Pavilion, the Dog Park, and manage interior renovations at Arnold Golf Club.

“Since we are not quite done with everything yet, I’m not sure how much money the City has saved by using some of our employees for remodeling, yet I am sure it is a significant amount,” says David Crutchley.

“When we are totally done with building out these new areas and open them to the public, we will begin planning Phase Two of the improvements, which we hope to start later this year or early next year,” Crutchley says.

“Our goal is to add new barbecue pits, new picnic tables, and new restrooms in strategic areas.”

“Arnold’s parks have always been popular recreation areas for local residents and people from out of town – our special events and community celebrations in our parks always attract big crowds,” he says.

“With these new expansions, new features, and improvements, we expect Arnold’s parks will be more popular than ever.”

9 05, 2018

Sinclair & Rush, Inc.

2018-05-14T11:55:56-06:00 May 9th, 2018|Small Time, Big Time Stories|

Arnold’s Sinclair & Rush is a Global Plastics Powerhouse

 

Bradley Philip, Sinclair & Rush

Bradley Philip, Sinclair & Rush

At a cocktail party scene in the Oscar-winning movie The Graduate a man corners Dustin Hoffman’s character and says, “Ben, I just want to say one word to you…Are you listening? Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?”

 

That movie scene today could certainly apply to Sinclair & Rush, Inc., the global manufacturing company headquartered at 123 Manufacturers Drive in Arnold.

Sinclair & Rush is one of the fastest-growing and most successful manufacturers of plastic, rubber and vinyl products for industrial applications on earth.

It has U.S. manufacturing operations in Arnold and Fenton, as well as in Carlstadt, New Jersey. Its overseas plants are in Maidstone and Rochester, England; Changzhou, China; and Riverstone, Australia.

How many Sinclair & Rush products are in use around the world today?

“Billions,” candidly says Bradford M. Philip, the company’s President and Chief Operating Officer since 2010. Philip was previously Executive Vice President and General Manager. He joined the company in 1995 as Corporate Controller.

“If you visit a Lowe’s or Home Depot store, the majority of the rakes and shovels have our grips on them – they are all made in Arnold and sold all over the country,” Philip says.

Yet big home and garden stores are just one of numerous industry sectors for Sinclair & Rush.

 

Modest beginnings

Sinclair & Rush was founded in 1950 by George Sinclair and Wayne Rush, two entrepreneurs who saw the post-war potential of making small, protective flexible caps.

They began the enterprise in their kitchens in houses where they lived in south St. Louis. “As their business began to grow, their spouses ordered them out of the kitchen,” explains Philip with a chuckle.

They ultimately moved the company into two buildings in south St. Louis where they developed different plastic products and the firm began to steadily grow.

In 1978, the entrepreneurs sold their company to two seasoned manufacturing executives, Vincent T. Gorguze, who had recently retired as President of Emerson Electric Company, and John J. Henry, who had also recently retired after a long and distinguished career in manufacturing.  This duo began expanding Sinclair & Rush by acquiring small and mid-sized companies with similar operations and good track records.

In 1994, they constructed the building at 123 Manufacturers Drive in Arnold. They moved the company headquarters into that 125,000 square foot facility and established a production plant there, where now 250 employees work in manufacturing, sales, customer service and financial operations.

Today, Sinclair & Rush has three main branded operations:

  • StockCap, maker of vinyl, plastic and rubber caps and plugs.
  • GripWorks, maker of vinyl, foam and rubber grips and tubing.
  • VisiPak, maker of clear tubes and tube containers, plastic clamshells, trays and blister packaging, clear folding boxes and more.

Given these diverse product lines, it is not unusual to see everything from golf balls to candy and cosmetics packaged for sale in clear plastic tubes made by Sinclair & Rush – not to mention thousands of additional products for retail and industrial applications.

Jeff Barket, Director of Sales & Marketing, notes that the company serves automotive products, sporting goods, exercise equipment, HVAC, electrical, housing, finishing, lawn & garden, hand tools and various other retail, industrial and medical applications. Its major markets are North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America and Australia. Sinclair & Rush sells its products online and catalogs can be seen at http://www.stockcap.com, http://www.gripworks.com and http://www.visipak.com.

 

Sinclair & Rush products
Sinclair & Rush products
Sinclair & Rush products

Job security     

In addition to the 250 employees in Arnold, about 150 people work in the company’s 100,000 square foot plant a few miles away in Fenton. Worldwide, Sinclair & Rush has a total of about 650 employees.

For a company with so much product diversity, as well as more than 20,000 customers, 650 employees seems like a low number.

“We run things pretty lean – we don’t have lots of layers of management,” says Philip. “We have been fortunate to find and retain good employees in the Arnold area and, also, for every plant location. Most of our local plant employees live in Arnold or nearby in Jefferson County.”

“The people who work here are a very dedicated group,” Philip continues. “Many of our employees have worked here at the Arnold plant for 30 or 40 years. It seems like when we hire someone if they stay for the initial 1 ½ or two years, they will stay forever. We are proud of our workforce.”

Charlie Hawes has worked in the Arnold plant for 34 years. Now 58 years old, he says, “This place is like a home to me. It’s a good place to work. I plan to retire in a few years when I am done working here.”

During the economic recession of 2008-2009 in the U.S., Sinclair & Rush and most manufacturing companies were adversely affected, particularly those in construction-related industries, Philip says.

“During the recession, we bent over backwards to help our existing customers any way that we could.  By adjusting shipping schedules and offering better inventory management we were able to assist and retain the vast majority of our customers during this period.  I think that reflects our total commitment to providing world-class customer service,” Philip says.

Starting after the recession ended in 2010, Sinclair & Rush renewed its tradition of acquiring other companies. In recent years the company has acquired National Plastics Inc. of St Louis, a thermoform manufacturer; Tulox Plastics Corporation of Marion, Indiana, a manufacturer of clear plastic packaging containers; and Component Force Ltd. of Kent, England, a manufacturer and distributor of product protection solutions.

“These acquisitions complement our long-term strategies to increase our product offerings and market reach. The synergies created with these acquisitions allow us to offer the broadest line of product protection and packaging products, from development to delivery, of any company in the industry.” Philip says.

“Since we made these acquisitions, our company has more than doubled in size in terms of revenue, facilities and employees,” Philip says.

“Our ownership group has challenged us with a goal of 30 percent growth in the near term and we intend on achieving this goal,” he continues.

“The group is very supportive of acquisitions that make sense, that are a good fit for us and which complement and enhance our manufacturing and distribution operations. We have no intentions of pulling up stakes or moving out. We’re going to be in Arnold for a long time.”

 

 

Story by Jeff Dunlap