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60th Anniversary Article

January 04, 2018

SPOTLIGHT ON BUSINESS:

 
Fruitland Manufacturing
 
Helmut Bader was not a man for fanfare. He was old school European; wake up early, work hard, eat well. Such was the work ethic that saw him journey from a small farming village in Germany to Hamilton, Ontario in 1951. Helmut, a Tool and Die Maker by trade, sailed the SS Fairsea to Halifax and travelled by train to Hamilton, excited to begin a new life in Canada.

This new city was full of small jobbing shops only too happy to hire skilled toolmakers for little pay. Helmut found employment for 50 cents an hour working much overtime in a non-union shop. Back then a family of four could live comfortably on $28.00 a week. Working hard and saving money to bring his sweetheart Marianne over from Germany was his primary goal.

Helmut shared an attic apartment with his German immigrant friend, also named Helmut. Together they purchased a car and enjoyed exploring Hamilton and surrounding areas on their days off. They found the perfect two bedroom flat at 546 Barton Street East. It was a simple place but their needs were modest. Their soon to be wives left Stuttgart, Germany on April 26, 1952 sailing to Canada on board the “Italia”. On May 17th, Marianne and Helmut were married at the Lutheran Church alongside their friends and roommates Sigrid and Helmut. Following the nuptials, they honeymooned for the day in Niagara Falls and drove back to Hamilton that evening. Both couples were active members oftheHamilton Germania Club. They worked hard, played hard and life in Hamilton was good.

Helmut soon found employment at Barber Die, working the swing shift from 3:30 to midnight, building molds for the auto industry, vacuum cleaners and waffle irons. The Canadians in the shop were most helpful with the language barrier he faced and he found himself picking up English quickly. Soon they bought their first home on Dewitt Road in Fruitland. In his home’s garage, in 1957, Helmut began Fruitland Tool and Manufacturing. After putting in his shifts at Barber Die, he worked into the wee hours in his garage and began to realize his dream, operating his own full service machine shop. All three Bader children, Christine, Heidi and Rodney, were born into this home on Dewitt Road. While Helmut worked the machines, Marianne worked hard raising the children, maintaining the home and running the office for the business.

In 1961 Helmut acquired the property at 324 Leaside Avenue, Stoney Creek, and erected his first building at the present location of Fruitland Manufacturing. Interestingly enough, the documents for the incorporation of the firm were signed on December 12, 1961, the very day their son, Rodney, was born. It was Helmut’s hope that Rod would eventually join him in his business.

Rod worked in the shop from the young age of 12, doing odd jobs. He worked part time and summers all through his school years learning to efficiently operate most machines and developing an understanding of the business. In 1984 Rod graduated from Business Administration and immediately joined his father full time at Fruitland.

In 1977 Fruitland designed and built their first vacuum pump unaware that this would soon become the mainstay of the business. In the early days Helmut’s entrepreneurial drive filled a need in the industrial community in southern Ontario supplying products and machining services to International Harvester, Dofasco, Steelco, Westinghouse, Rheem and GSW to name a few. Throughout the years Fruitland became known for its exceptional work and service helping various industries with innovative machining solutions. Business continued to grow and in 1978 the plant was doubled in size. By 1984, four more pump models were added and Fruitland was on its way to becoming a major vacuum pump supplier for the tank truck industry. Fruitland vacuum pumps serve the oil and gas, industrial, agricultural, septic, environmental and military industries.

Fruitland has been so successful because of the loyalty and hard work of its employees. Helmut sponsored many immigrants to Canada, gave them employment and helped them settle here. There were some tough times when he couldn’t pay his people but they continued working knowing he would square up when he could. Fruitland is proud to employ many people who have now clocked over 30, 40 and even 50 years with the company. For decades, Fruitland has worked closely with Mohawk College and its Apprenticeship Program to develop skilled workers to remain competitive. Over the years, many of the Bader clan worked at Fruitland in various roles including daughters Heidi and Christine, her husband Günter, Rod, his wife Karen, and their children Daniel, Jenna and Kristy. Rod took over as President in 2000. The following year the facilities were expanded after acquiring a neighboring property and again in 2007. Sadly, in 2010, Helmut passed away at the age of 81. Although mostly retired for years he could still be found sitting at his old oak desk reading the paper and catching up with events at Fruitland. In 2017, Marianne joined her beloved Helmut. The end of an era for Fruitland. Their strong presence is sorely missed.

Under Rod’s leadership, the company continued to reach new heights of achievement. As business continued to expand, Rod hired Chris White to run the daily operations and oversee future growth. In 2014, Fruitland doubled the size of its operations. Today, Fruitland Manufacturing is a world leader in the vacuum pump market catering to a myriad of industries requiring a high quality and reliable product. Fruitland pumps are used across North, South and Central America and as far away as New Zealand and Australia. The company continually looks to the future with ongoing product development and engineering. It has been a long journey from that little backyard garage on Dewitt Road. Rod and Karen, along with the rest of the Bader family are very proud to be celebrating the 60th Anniversary of their family business. Helmut would be so pleased with the progress his company has made and continues to make. Fruitland’s success is a tremendous tribute to Helmut and Marianne, the ambitious German immigrants who made it all possible. 

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