For over twenty-five years, American Hammer has been the leader in quality industrial hammers.
In this interview, President Ted Leitter talks about the company’s versatility and how they’ve grown since his acquisition.
Jason: How long have you been with American Hammer?
Ted: I’ve owned it for 35 years. I bought it at 20 years old, and I’ll celebrate my 55th birthday this year.
Jason: And you just acquired two competitors?
Ted: Yes. It’s been very busy and has been for the last five years. When the election results came out last year, one of my main competitors was concerned for the future – I’m a little more optimistic about the new administration so I felt comfortable taking over their business. They actually had two brands that we acquired, and that allows us to take over the entire market in the midwest. They’ve been around for quite some time – not as long as we have, but they always kept our prices artificially low. By eliminating that competition, we won’t have to lower our prices to compete with them and that’s really why I bought it. We’re planning on dissolving their hammer line.
Jason: Trump got the ball rolling again for the Made in America movement and Covid exposed the supply chain weakness and our dependence on China for necessary things like PPE. It’s great that it’s finally coming to the forefront of American politics.
Ted: It is great, and we have always been Made in America and always will be. I didn’t realize there was such a large movement until I saw your feature on Fox News and got excited for the next expo.
Jason: We’re just a small piece of the pie but our voice has gotten louder and we get to speak with unique companies like yours every day. It seems like you are optimistic for the future with your company as a whole – what do you have going on today?
Ted: Right now, we’re 95 percent Business to Business – although I’ll get a call periodically from end users. One of them was an 80-year-old man who called to discuss what type of hammer he would need for this hobby, which was working on restoring old classic carts. Our hammers can certainly be used in a hobby environment – working on cars, lawnmowers, or just things you do in your garage. The idea behind the hammer is that it’s soft in nature and doesn’t damage whatever you’re working on. In his case, he was working on an old Model A and he couldn’t get a brake drum off. We talked for a good while and he wrote me a very nice letter. So, I have those very private individual moments and then we’ll also talk to multi-million dollar industries like SpaceX or the entire auto industry. We design and make hammers for specific applications but there are two common themes: Non-sparking and non-marring. There was one case in the nuclear power industry where another manufacturer’s hammer contents spilled out into a reactor and it cost them nine million dollars to halt production and get the materials out. They then called us because they needed a deadblow hammer with a certain type of moving material inside the head in the event it was breached. We put magnetic materials in the hammer so that the components could be retrieved with a magnet in case they fell out.
Jason: So that’s the two extremes – you have the 80-year-old hobbyist and then the industrial business clients.
Ted: Yes, and everything in between. We had another hammer born out of necessity the other day in the cryogenics industry. Cryogenics is basically taking gas and super cooling it to a cryogenic state so it can be transported in tanker trucks all over North America. They needed a hammer to undo the holding tanks and they came to me. We designed a hammer over the phone together. We came up with exact dimensions that would work and after 4,000 test strikes on both sides of the head, it’s still holding up on the hammer. Now, there’s one of our hammers on every tanker truck in North America.
Jason: Where are you guys located at?
Ted: We have three locations. We have a warehouse distribution center in Rockford, Illinois. We have our foundry location in Chicago and most of what we do is done in Wilmington,North Carolina.
Jason: So, you acquired the business 35 years ago?
Ted: Yes, I originally went to school to become an airline pilot. That was my dream and I was flying everywhere. While in school, I answered an ad to be a delivery boy for a small hammer company. For $5 an hour I was delivering hammers. Today, we have about 600 customers. Every 6 months, we take in the used hammers and melt them down to be reused and redistributed. Back when I was working and answered the ad to do this, we didn’t go through nearly as many hammers. We went from making about 70 types back then to 680 as of today.
Jason: That is great. It’s always interesting to see unique business owners like you who have grown the company from small beginnings.
Ted: A lot of it is blessings, I don’t wanna call it luck. You treat people how you want to be treated and you’re honest. The better you are, the better you get. We’re a lot bigger today than we used to be and that was from having the desire to never say no.
Jason: Absolutely! And you’ll be coming to Made in America 2021.
Ted: I’ll be there, but I’m mainly going to support the American made movement. We will have custom hammers displayed and interactive videos but our goal isn’t exclusively to get new clients.
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