How we came to be here, back in 1914, is truly an American success story. The father of our company, Paul H. Gesswein, was born in Germany. One of the youngest in a family of 18 children, he came to America with his father and some of his younger siblings when he was in his early teens.
His arrival in this country typified the struggle that immigrants faced in becoming self-sufficient. As a teenager, Paul took a job working in a hardware store. Young Paul found that he had many requests from nearby craftsman for precision tools, mainly for manufacturing jewelry. Recognizing an opportunity, he decided to start his own business. He began by importing European tools (primarily from Germany) because American-made products were rare or nonexistent. Initially, Paul's customers were local; they visited the store to make their purchases. As time went on, however, Paul decided to visit customers outside the New York City area and began traveling by steamer between New York and Boston. As people heard about his precision tools, requests from other parts of the country were received. That's when Paul decided to produce a book of tools and supplies that he could mail to those customers who couldn't visit his store - and the first Gesswein catalog was born!
By the end of the 1930s, Paul had died and left the business to his wife. One of his sons, Roger Gesswein, Sr. (father of today's chairman of the board), managed the business for her. At the start of World War II, the supply of tools from Europe, and especially Germany, began to dry up. Roger had to find sources for his tools in the United States, but manufacturers had been directed to produce only goods pertinent to the war effort so they were unable to make the specialized tools necessary to supply Gesswein customers. As the war wound down, more domestic sources for tools became available and the company began to grow and expand as quickly as space became available in the building it shared on Maiden Lane in lower Manhattan.
In the early 1950s, the Paul H. Gesswein Company had ten employees and carried over 1,000 items. Even 20 years after his death, people still remembered what a gentleman Paul Gesswein was, and they remained loyal to the company he founded. During that decade, a line of abrasives was added to Gesswein's inventory to service the growing mold and die finishing industry. Plastics were becoming industry's material of choice and abrasives were required to finish plastic injection molds. Along with the line of abrasives, a complementary line of tools and equipment was added, and another catalog was born.
In 1963, the company moved to larger quarters. Space was found a few miles north, on lower Park Avenue. It seemed that the company would never fill up the 5000 square feet, but that was not the case. By 1966, another generation of Gessweins had entered the business. Roger Jr. and Dwight Gesswein and Janet Gesswein Mutti took on expanding roles to help the firm grow and expand. More space was rented at the Park Avenue address, and the company continued to grow. At one point, two people were sharing the same desk on alternate days. Another move was clearly in the offing. Ultimately, a move to Connecticut was planned. A building was designed to suit the company's needs, and the move was made. A few years later, an adjacent building was acquired, then a third one a few years after that.
Until 40 years ago, Gesswein sales were primarily domestic. Then Roger, Sr., visited Europe to call on suppliers and discovered there was a market for our tools and supplies. Today, the Paul H. Gesswein Company offers its products to the global manufacturing community.
Now after over a hundred years of successful business, a fourth generation of Gesswein leadership has stepped up to the management role. In November of 2016, Greg Gesswein, Dwight Gesswein's oldest son was promoted to the position of company president, replacing his father who stays on as co-chairman.
Greg is no stranger to the business, having already put in over twelve years of effort into growing Gesswein's products and sales, first in field sales assignments and most recently as manager of the industrial sales division.
CEO Roger Gesswein, Jr.'s comment at the time sums up the significance of this event, "Greg's knowledge of the customers, markets and products combined with his experience in management and his unending source of energy ensures that Gesswein will have the continuity of a strong leader to take the firm to a successful and stable future."
So In many ways, things have changed since we occupied that one-room walk-in store on Maiden Lane. The Gesswein Company now has grown to over 60 employees and offers over 17,000 machines, tools, equipment and supplies. Even with this growth, however, we are still loyal to the vision young Paul had almost 100 years ago. We strive not only to serve our existing customers but also to win the trust of new ones.