Cleo F. Pineau began the family business, Radiant Steel, in 1927. Eight decades and many changes later, the company remains in the family with his daughter, Andree P. Phillips, at the helm.
Phillips, along with her children, Rick Fenstamaker and Wendy Pricher, have found a system operating the family business in harmony.
When Pineau began the company, they designed enclosures for radiators. "My dad felt that cast iron radiators were not very attractive. Why would a woman want a cast iron radiator in her living room? He designed an enclosure for those radiators. That is why we are called Radiant Steel," Phillips said.
A computerized laser used to cut through metal in patterns is watched over by a worker for Radiant Steel.
In 1928, Pineau developed the first stationary louver. A louver is the slatted ventilated opening on the front of heating units that allows the warm air to pass through.
According to Phillips, the world changed and the business needed to change with it. They branched out into products other than radiator enclosures to add diversity to the company.
Present day, the 44,000-square-foot facility provides a variety of products which are manufactured to the specifications of the customer, including products for office furniture and the heating and cooling industry. "All of our products are made out of some type of metal. We make many types of different things," Phillips said.
Phillips bought the business from her father in 1969 when he retired. However, for the next 14 years, although Phillips owned the company, she did not work for it. Phillips maintained her stature as a stay at home mom.
"My former husband and I bought the business from my dad over a period of time. He (former husband) ran the company for a number of years and then we became divorced. I took over," Phillips said.
In 1983, Phillips captured her rightful position in the company and never let go.
"When I got here I was encouraged to change the name because it was not very modern. Because I knew the history of the company, I was not at all interested in changing the name because that is who we are," Phillips said.
According to Phillips, her son, Rick Fenstamaker, was eager to jump on board. Phillips encouraged her son to work for someone else to gain experience before joining the family business. In response to that, Fenstamaker bought and ran his own business.
"He worked at that for awhile and gained some great experience. I told him, I just can't afford to bring you back here. And he offered to work for nothing," Phillips said.
Fenstamaker kept his other job as he worked for the family business for free.
"We managed to find the money and I hired him as a sales person. He has since been the plant manager and is now the general manager and one of the owners of the company," Phillips said. "I am the majority shareholder and Rick is the second biggest."
Three percent of the company is owned by other investors.
Phillips daughter, Wendy Pricher handles purchasing and accounting.
According to Phillips, business is steady. They employ 17 full time employees and at times will have up to 10 temporary workers. Of the full time employees, the average work week ranges from 40 to 55 hours per week. "We have been most fortunate to be busy and we are grateful for that," Phillips said.
The company received the Phillips/Plankenhorn Small Business of the Year in 1998 and was also a runner up for the national Blue Chip Enterprise Initiative Award.
"There is some trick to a family business. You have to work at getting the lines of communication open. You have to work at learning how to disagree without being disagreeable. You don't want to let work permeate every family gathering that you have. I think we have found the balance to making it work," Phillips said.