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Handler's Bill Lehman acknowledges that building a long-lasting product has its downside. "I was once at a trade show and a customer stopped by to say, 'I bought a lathe from you 52 years ago and it's still working. Keep it up and you guys are going to work yourselves out of business!'"
But the company isn't going to stop making its quality products anytime soon. In fact, this year the family-run operation celebrates its 90th anniversary. The company got its start in the early 1900s when New Jersey laboratory owner Edward Handler invented the Donham Flask, a new style of denture flask that was easier to take apart, and the Ideal Press, a new and less expensive flask press. He formed Edward Handler & Sons to sell his products and, over the next several decades, expanded the product line and invented the popular Red Wing Lathe. In 1957, Handler sold the four-person operation to George DeCourcey of the Aderer Gold and Cosmos Co. and retired; DeCourcey renamed the company Handler Mfg. Co. Inc.
A turning point in the company's growth came six years later when Bill Lehman, DeCourcey's engineer son-in-law, came aboard. Thanks to Lehman's implementation of new products--including dust collectors, lathes, forged denture flasks, denture presses and compresses, polishing units, dust collectors, furniture and products for the jewelry trade--sales tripled within one year.
In 1979, Lehman purchased the company and still serves as its chairman and CEO. Continuing in the family tradition, in 2001, he hired his son-in-law, Rick LaDuca, as vice president of sales. LaDuca worked with the management team to implement new technology and lean manufacturing techniques and was promoted to president in 2007.
Today, the 35-person operation continues to design and manufacture over 90% of its products in its 35,000-sq-ft facility in Westfield, NJ. Part of the company's success is working closely with its customers to develop products that meet their needs--it even offers customized solutions. "If you don't see a product in our line, maybe we can build it for you. We have the capability to custom build just one product or larger quantities for our customers," says Lehman. For instance, when the company's standard curing units didn't meet the needs of a large denture laboratory customer, Handler customized one with a series of larger tanks to better meet its high-volume needs. The company has also built customized benches, polishing units and dust collectors for its laboratory customers. Handler's equipment is sold through a line of dealers. For more information, call 800-274-2635 or visit www.handlermfg.com.
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