A.L. man buys assets of Enderes Tool Co.

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Albert Lea man has purchased the assets of Enderes Tool Co. and hopes to have the local manufacturer back up and running in three weeks.

Steve Overgaard, owner of Albert Lea-based Vasco Inc., closed Friday on the purchase of the assets from American Bank. The price tag was not disclosed, but he did say he bought the name, plans to rehire former workers and wants to make tools stamped with the Enderes brand.

The new company will be called Northbridge Tool LLC. Overgaard’s target date for opening is Nov. 12.

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“I hope to ship product in five or six weeks,” he said.

The ownership of Enderes Tool Co. closed the manufacturing plant at 924 E. 14th St. in the Jobs Industrial Park in Albert Lea on April 27. There were nine employees at the time, with six in manufacturing, one in shipping, one plant manager and one office worker. Overgaard said the plant in the last year shut down a screwdriver-making line, laying off six others.

The company sold top-quality tools, despite competing against an influx of low-quality imports. However, nearly all sources have said the company encountered cash flow problems.

One major problem, Overgaard speculated, was the company took out a loan to buy a warehouse in Apple Valley but couldn’t move enough inventory to pay off the debt or to buy steel. The imports, indeed, hurt the company and at a bad time, but there remains a market for quality goods, he said.

“It’s just so sad that a 100-year-old manufacturing company here in Albert Lea closed. There was no issue with product quality,” he said.

The IRS had two liens on the company. The liens were $351,159 and $44,758. The company last June also owed property taxes: $98,147 on the parcel with its manufacturing plant on it and $17,249 on an adjacent bare parcel. Both tax-debt amounts went up prior to a forfeiture auction that had been slated for Aug. 9.

However, before the auction, the Albert Lea Port Authority stepped in, put a hold on the public sale of 924 E. 14th St., then removed the hold once the agency had the authorization to buy the property for $2, a buck for each parcel. Overgaard plans to lease from the Port Authority.

Dan Dorman, director of the Port Authority, said the agency incurred expenses up to $20,000 to cover filing fees, legal fees and environmental studies — all done to protect the agency from any unseen problems.

The building is specifically suited to tool manufacturing, so Overgaard originally had wanted to buy both the building and the company back in April. However, by June the bank realized the expense of the IRS lien attached to the property would prevent that.

Following the Port Authority’s purchase, the Freeborn County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office notified the IRS of the building now being in the hands of the city, and the office hasn’t had a response, which Dorman and Auditor-Treasurer Dennis Distad said likely means the IRS doesn’t object.

Overgaard hopes to gain access to the building Monday and assess matters inside. He needs to determine the repairs needed on the equipment and how many workers need to be brought back. He said he is looking only at former employees.

“The challenge for us is not to make quality tools. The workers have a commitment to quality. There’s no question,” he said. “We need to get out and promote.”

Overgaard said Enderes is not the first troubled company he has purchased. Nineteen years ago, he, his two brothers and his sister bought Holmsten Ice Rinks, which is now Rink Systems Inc.

His other company, Vasco Inc., most notably makes Thomsen Ice Edgers.

Enderes Tool Co. had a long history. The company was founded as the result of a merger in 1910 between Albert Lea Machinery Co., which was started in 1908 in Albert Lea by Joe Pihl, and Enderes Manufacturing Co., started in 1896 in Littleport, Iowa, and owned by Ernst Enderes.

They made three tools at first, a cutting nipper, a staple puller and a chisel.

The company’s original plant burned down in 1966, and Enderes built its building in the Jobs Industrial Park that same year.

Enderes in modern times made durable forged tools: chisels, punches, hitch pins, pry bars, wrecking bars, screwdrivers, drill bits, masonry tools and farrier tools.

Overgaard said he had much reaction after being mentioned in a Tribune story in late June about his interest in purchasing struggling Enderes Tool. He said part of the reason he bought the company is he was a vendor and knew other vendors who wanted to keep getting quality Enderes tools.

About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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