By Nick Greenhalgh SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
Working with family members can often be problematic, frustrating and difficult.
Only 30 percent of family businesses survive to be handed down to a second generation; that number dwindles to 12 percent for the third generation, according to the Family Business Institute.
St. Pierre Manufacturing Corporation in Worcester is bucking this trend. The St. Pierre family is already onto their third generation of employees and are still growing, said Richard P. St. Pierre, manager of the company’s lifting division.
“It can be very difficult, but it’s now smoothing out,” said Mr. St. Pierre, 67. “It can be difficult working with younger people thinking they know more than they do.”
St. Pierre Chain Corporation was founded in 1920 by Vermont farm boy Henry St. Pierre. While the company had humble beginnings making tire chains, once employing 1,000 people. In the process, the company became the largest manufacturer of pitching horseshoes in the world.
Upon the death of Henry St. Pierre in 1966, his sons — Henry and Edward — formed the St. Pierre Manufacturing Corp. that is still in business today. A few years later, their brother Richard and sister Nanette joined the company. Now, nearly nine decades after it opened, the third generation of the St. Pierre family — Peter, Michael and Suzanne — work for the company. St. Pierre Manufacturing has about thirty employees, six of whom are members of the St. Pierre family.
When the company was created, its main product was tire chains. As automobiles and roads improved, tire chains became a seasonal product sold to snow removal vehicles. The company still sells the model of tire chains that Henry St. Pierre invented and patented many years ago.
In the early 1970s, pitching horseshoes gained popularity and took over as the company’s primary product.
Now, over 90 years after their genesis, St. Pierre’s calling card is their hoisting and lifting equipment.
St Pierre’s chain and wire rope products are used regionally for construction; the company provided cables for Boston’s Zakim Bridge.
Although the pitching horseshoes aren’t as popular as they once were, St. Pierre Manufacturing still takes pride in creating a world-class product.
“We’re the only manufacturer of horseshoes in the U.S. left,” Richard St. Pierre said. “We have a forge shop and we still make them right here. Made in Massachusetts.”
They forge each horseshoe individually, making them stronger and more reliable than cast horseshoes manufactured overseas. St. Pierre Manufacturing still produces thousands of horseshoes each day. The company continues to expand their diverse product line and now produce tournament bocce sets, in addition to horseshoes. Bocce is an Italian version of lawn bowling, with heavy metal balls thrown along a strip of lawn or asphalt.
Richard St. Pierre stressed the transition that a family business must go through.
He acknowledged that he and his older brothers, Henry and Edward, would not be around forever.
“The younger generation is learning the business and eventually will be able to take over,” Richard St. Pierre said.
“The three brothers can make an exit, we’ll still be around to check on things, though.”