FASTENER HISTORY Lake Erie Screw Grew as Family Business
By Jay Hebert
In 1946 in Lakewood, Ohio, the saga of Lake Erie Screw began. John C. Wasmer, affectionately known in later decades as "Grandpa Wasmer," split from his partial ownership of Tru-Fit Bolt and founded Lake Erie Screw in the very same building, a large Lakewood structure that had originally been the manufacturing site of the Templar Motor Car early in the century when Cleveland and Detroit were competing to be the world headquarters of the fledgling automobile industry.
It quickly became a true family business, with the key contributors being his sons John Jr. and George, along with sons-in-law Bill Rawlings and Jim Dorenkott.
Growth was steady and slow until the seventies when the addition of large bolt capacity, up to 1 1/4" diameter, helped propel the company to be a major factor in the nation's fastener business.
Then, through the eighties and early nineties, the growth continued, as most other US fastener manufacturers disappeared under the Asian onslaught while only the best survived and prospered.
The company stuck to what it knew and did best: the manufacture of highest quality capscrews and structural bolts and nothing else.
The Wasmer family is still well known in the Cleveland area. With John C. Wasmer Sr.'s inspiration, the family made a huge impact on church and charity in the community, primarily at St. Ignatius High School and John Carroll University.
Lake Erie was finally sold in 1986 to a private investor Brian Campbell, who eventually took it public, but it is interesting to note that George Wasmer remained at the helm until the mid-90s, seeing the company grow to around one hundred million dollars in annual sales, still only in the capscrew and bolt business.
The second plant, started in the early nineties in Frankfort, Indiana, carries on that concentration on screws and bolts under the name of Lake Erie Products and the ownership of Fontana in Milan, Italy.
The company is now gone from the Lakewood scene, but as of 2009 a few key alumni have remained prominent in the fastener world. George Wasmer has ownership stake in Parts Associates and Telefast; Jeff Hepner is president of Telefast; Joe McAuliffe is president of Ferry Cap; Mike Hamlin is owner of Wing-Hamlin in the Chicago area; while Jay Hebert has just this year retired as senior vice president of Porteous Fastener.
1988 FIN – TriMas to Be New Parent Company to Lake Erie & Eskay
August 16, 1988 FIN - Eskay Screw Products, located in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, and Lake Erie Screw Corp., of Cleveland, Ohio, will soon have a new parent corporation when a transaction is finalized involving their present parent companies.
This transaction, expected to be finalized by November, will create a new entity called TriMas Corp., which will oversee a number of businesses now operated by Masco Industries, of Taylor, Michigan.
In the transfer, Masco Industries will sell ten of its divisions to TriMas Corp. in return for about a 50% equity in the new company. The equity is in the form of common stock and a certain amount of subordinate debentures.
As part of the transfer, Masco Corporation (which created Masco Industries in a similar move four years ago) will acquire for cash the other 50% of the common stock. Masco Corp. will then spin off a portion of the common stock as a dividend to its shareholders, making TriMas a public corporation.
The divisions TriMas will operate include certain defense, cutting tool, heat treating, and fastener businesses, which represent about $150 million of Masco Industries' annual sales.
Eskay Screw Products, now a part of Masco Industries, will become a part of TriMas.
According to Brian Campbell who'll be president of TriMas Corp., Masco Industries, which now has a broadly defined product group, will now be able to focus on its automotive, oil field, and architectural product groups.
TriMas will be able to grow as well, Campbell told FIN, because as the result of the transfer,
TriMas will initially have about $70 million in cash and a $200-300 million line of bank credit.
Campbell said that two initial areas of growth the corporation will consider are in the fastener and cutting tool businesses.
April 14, 1987 FIN - Lake Erie Screw Corp. has been acquired by Campbell Industries. Brian P. Campbell heads Campbell Industries. He is a former group pdresident of Masco Corp. and also still works there as a consultant.
Masco Industries, a subsidiary of Masco Corp., is the parent company of small screw manufacturer Eskay Screw Pdroducts of Elk Grove Village, IL.
George Wasmer, president of Lake Erie Screw, told FIN that he will report to Campbell.
The acquisition was made from the four stockholders: Wasmer, his brother J.C. Wasmer Jr., chairman; and two other brothers-in-law. Jay V. Hebert will dremain as vice pdresident of sales and the entire operations at Lake Erie will remain intact, Wasmer told FIN.
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