Founded over 70 years ago, Ford Tool Steels, Inc. has grown to become one of the largest independently owned tool steel distributors in the Midwest. This did not happen by accident. It had taken years of hard work, dedicated employees and loyal customers to help build what we are today.
1945 – 1946
In a former horse stable on North Broadway in St. Louis, Ford Steel Company opened their first warehouse in August of 1945. John Ford, who was a superintendent for Bethlehem Steels tool steel mill, heard of Bethlehems desire to find a distributor in St. Louis. So with his brother Flynn, who was then working for Wheeling Steel, they headed west to start that distributorship. Also joining them was Ken Semmel, who had worked with John in the tool steel mills.
The founding days saw John and Flynn spending their days pounding the pavement introducing the St. Louis area to Bethlehem and to Ford. At the end of their day, John and Flynn would return to their warehouse and with Ken would stay until all the orders received that day were cut. Their equipment at that time included one Marvel No. 9 hacksaw and one Wells scissors band saw. Material was handled on a hand operated chain hoist. Before leaving, the completed orders were loaded into John and Flynns car trunks so that they could be delivered the first thing the next morning.
In January of 1946, John and Flynns brother Curtis joined them in business and added another specialty steel line, that being the Hatfield Manganese steel business for the mining, logging and crushed stone industry, heavy road and dam construction and other types of operations where impact and abrasion are equipment maintenance problems.
1950 – 1958
Business grew and in October of 1950, Ford Steel Company moved into their newly constructed offices and warehouse. Their new building provided them with 800 sf of office space and 10,400 sf of warehouse space. By this time, Ford Steel Company had grown to a total of ten employees including one full time salesman each in the tool steel line and the Mangalloy (Hatfield manganese) line. Ford Steel Company was now selling tool steel as far east as Herrin, IL and as far west as Wichita, KS.
Additions were made to the warehouse in 1956 (5,600 sf) and again in 1966 (5,000 sf). A new office (2,000 sf) was built in 1958 and a few years later, salesmens offices were added.
1967 – 1971
In 1967, John and Flynn Ford decided to retire and at that time, the tool steel business was sold to Mr. Semmel, who was then serving as Secretary/Treasurer of Ford Steel Company, and Lou Malpocker, the tool steel sales manager. This was the birth of Ford Tool Steels, Inc. Both companies continued to share facilities until 1971 when Ford Steel Company moved into their present building.
With the entire building now at their disposal, Ford Tool Steels, Inc. moved into the plate sawing business. At the time that the Model 879 Oliver plate saw was installed, a Madison 18 x 84 vertical grinder was also added.
1976 – 1981
In October of 1976, ownership of the company transferred to Bob Slattery and Gary Heien, Sr. Bob started with Ford Steel Company in 1951 and was serving Ford Tool Steels, Inc. as Secretary/Treasurer at the time of ownership. Gary, who had worked for another tool steel firm for four years, joined Ford Steel Company in 1966. Gary was Sales Manager of Ford Tool Steels, Inc. when he and Bob assumed ownership. Ken Semmel and Lou Malpocker continued with the company until 1981. Ken retired then and Lou continued with the company as a consultant.
1995 – Present
As Bob Slattery closed out his career in the tool steel industry in 1995, Bob Slattery retired and Gary Heien, Sr. became the sole owner of Ford Tool Steels, Inc.
To begin his enjoyment of the retired life, Gary Heien, Sr. sold the company in October, 2003, to his son, Gary Heien, Jr. Gary, Jr. was with Ford Tool Steels, Inc. from 1982-2012 and served in almost every capacity from warehouseman to president. As of May, 2012, Susan (Heien) Gasser, daughter of Gary Heien, Sr. has taken over the management role of Ford Tool Steels, Inc. The company has proudly became a certified, woman-owned business.
The Ford brothers started and built the company on service. Service in the range of grades and sizes that are available; service on deliveries that can be made from our warehouse; service on deliveries from our suppliers and service in the quality and background offered through our sales staff. That same philosophy is still followed today.