An Industry Approach That Pays Off…
Colonial Saw Co., Inc. started in 1949 in Buffalo, New York, as a saw shop selling grinding machinery and sharpening blades. As the years passed, it just so happened that they were selling machines to a company in Needham Heights, Massachusetts called Boston Saw. The sales manager there, Manny Pacheco, had heard that the sole owner of Colonial Saw was finally looking to retire. Seeing an opportunity, Pacheco decided to acquire the company in 1960 and carry the business forward.
Pacheco moved the company to Boston and ran it out of his garage until he was able to find a location to better establish himself. As the mid-1960s approached, he wanted to move closer to his boat down in Kingston, Massachusetts. He realized that he could be anywhere in the country selling grinding machines so he picked up and moved there. During this same time his daughter, Jean, became engaged and married Paul Ravinski, who would start as Colonial Saw’s first technician. Eventually, Paul and Jean’s daughter would marry the company’s current vice president, David Rakauskas.
Shortly after the move, the company began importing and representing Schneeberger grinding machines out of Switzerland. Along with that, by the late 1960s, both Lamello biscuit joiners and Striebig vertical panel saws needed someone to represent their products and introduce them to the U.S. marketplace. With Colonial’s connection to the Swiss-made Schneeberger it made sense to add these two manufacturers.
Manny ran the business from 1960 to 1975 when he passed, leaving the business to his daughter Jean and husband Paul. They have been in charge of operating and growing Colonial Saw for the past 40 years.
By the 1990s, Colonial Saw had expanded their grinding machinery lines to include Utma tool and profile grinders, Wright Machine Tool saw sharpening, MVM for their knife grinding expertise, Businaro’s Italian cold saw grinders for the metalworking industry, and ABM, out of Turkey, for their band saw, circular saw, knife and tool grinders.
“We can walk into a shop and offer them any type of grinder they might need for basically every application,” stated Rakauskas. With three sales people covering North America, most grinding machine sales are handled on a direct basis. However, according to Rakauskas, “We will always work through distribution with anyone who finds a grinding need.”
Their other lines, Lamello and Striebig, are sold through a North American dealer network. They find their dealers primarily through their association in WMIA. “If you want to leverage and find good distributors, that’s the place to do it,” said Rakauskas. “We have found the best dealers who are WMIA members, through WMIA events and networking.”
When it comes to managing Colonial Saw’s distributor network, Rakauskas takes an informal approach knowing that those dealers have major lines that can take up a large percentage of their time. Instead of adding pressure to their dealers, Colonial wants to be helpful and open, and they believe in supporting those dealers through sales calls, open houses, half-day trainings, and traveling the next two with their salespeople. “We want them to feel confident and want to work with and help us. We want them to know that we are there during the sale and after for any service work.” And probably the most significant statement he made was, “We actually try and win the battle by being nice guys.”
“Our major investment is our inventory, our facilities, and computer software to track distribution of parts and support,” Rakauskas added. There are six technicians who travel the country to install machines, fix and repair, and train people in the operation of the machinery. “These technicians are all over North America!”
When asked about the company benefits of being a WMIA member, Rakauskas answered, “It has helped us find new distributors and, just as importantly, it has given us networking opportunities where we can meet and enhance our relationships with our existing dealer network.” He explained how the WMIA has given them the chance to reach out to other members and openly discuss their views on issues from workman’s compensation to finding technicians. He added that WMIA enables open forums for all to participate and learn from each other and industry professionals; the economy, the industry, and the ability to gather information on present issues and the future.
Today, according to Rakauskas, business is great at Colonial Saw, comparable to the early and mid-2000s. However, the company remains “consciously optimistic” when looking ahead to the future. Rakauskas pointed out that economies are cyclical and they have been on an upward run for a while now. He believes that this trend will not continue forever, but he hopes that any downturn will be small and work its way back up again.
What makes Colonial Saw so unique? Rakauskas answers that the best. “We’re nice, honest, realistic, and our flexible approach is what draws people to us. If something is wrong with a machine, we get on it right away. If a machine is not suited for the customer, we’ll have them return it with no hassles. We don’t want to sell something to a customer they don’t need.
“We try to be just like the WMIA with our competition. We actually don’t believe in the concept that somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. You can find win/win solutions. We want to be honest and fair in all of our dealings, and it comes right back to us.”