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Axeman-Anderson celebrates 75 years in the boiler business

KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette Peter H. Axeman, Jr., left, and Peter H. Axeman, Sr., right, with a yacht boiler at their South Williamsport business, Axeman Anderson.

Axeman-Anderson started making steel boilers for homes and small businesses 75 years ago in 1944. Today, the business has grown with the ups of oil embargos and needs for boilers for today’s work on roads and on the water.

“The company was started in 1944 when my father and William Anderson formed a partnership,” said Peter H. Axeman Sr., president. “My father worked at a different boiler company before that and had experience. It was originally started to develop and manufacture the anthratube.”

“Basically we sell furnaces, the generic term for them,” said Peter H. Axeman Jr., vice president. “We make the boilers that make the hot water heat.”

At that time, heating was primarily done by coal and wood and the anthratube boiler was used for such purposes as burning coal.

The business became very successful in a multitude of areas where coal was produced, mostly in the eastern parts of the United States.

The business even sold boilers to areas in Russia, China, England, Belgium and France, where in the ’60s, the coal industry contacted Axeman Sr.’s father to start marketing and developing these boilers in that country.

Axeman Sr., who started in 1962, said that the business has grown over the years through numerous ups and downs with oil embargos and successful selling, and there have been changes to the business.

He said that the business now is more digital with sending emails instead of letters, but his son, Axeman Jr. added that they always have someone answering the phones and helping customers like office manager Renae Russell.

“She does a lot for the company,” Axeman Jr. said.

They added that the business used to sell through dealers, some of whom the owners knew on a more personal level, but today as they are selling with wholesalers, they do not know nearly as many of the dealers that they used to. The communication has changed through time, but there have been more ups and downs with the embargoes, according to Axeman Sr.

“To tell you the truth: 75 years, there has been a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “1974 was an oil embargo time. We couldn’t sell fast enough. It died again, and it would go right back up. It depends on the coal industry and the oil embargo coming together.”

In more recent years, the business started working on niche markets including boilers for paint trucks and smaller yachts, though they are selling the same coal boiler from the ’40s.

“We have gotten into these little niche markets: specialty boilers for mobile homes, specialty boilers for paint trucks and three models of boilers for yachts and boats,” Axeman Jr. said.

He explained that the boilers for the paint trucks are used to ensure that the paint on the asphalt is drying faster.

He also added that the business has gotten into the waste oil industry to build specific boilers for burning waste oil. Units are used at car businesses that drain crankcase oil, transmission fluid and more.

“We got into waste oil,” he said. “We have built boilers for three different companies that market waste oil units.”

“They used to have to haul the waste oils away but now they can burn it there,” Axeman Sr. said. “In no time they are heating their building and having hot water to wash the cars. That has become a nice market for us.”

After 75 years, the two still refurbish coal units from the ’40s that are going into their second, third or even fourth homes.

“They are built like tanks,” Axeman Sr. said.

Axeman Jr. added that many of them are increasingly efficient and work for upwards of 60 plus years.

Together the company and the Axeman family have been heating homes around the world and the eastern United States with their hard-working, steel and heat powered specialty boilers, but they have also donated to, and support charities including the Danville Ronald McDonald House and Lycoming County United Way.

“It’s an achievement really, to be here 75 years,” Axeman Sr. said. “Not many businesses have been around for 75 years.”

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