The Story of Colman
In 1946 M.D. Colman moved to Amarillo after being discharged from the U.S. Army at the end of World War II. He had moved his wife and two small children to Amarillo previously so they could be with his wife's family while he was in the service. Before entering the military, he had worked in his native St. Paul, Minnesota as a machinist and as a tool-&-die maker at several manufacturing plants.
Upon leaving the military, he opened a small one-man machine shop, renting space at the rear of a welding shop in Amarillo, and did general repair machine work and engaged in tool-&-die work for several of the manufacturing companies in the Amarillo and Lubbock area. At the time there were three farm-implement manufacturers, a steel shelving company, and several others using metal stampings. The company name was Colman Tool & Machine Company.
After 2 years in rented quarters, land was purchased at NE 3rd & Arthur and a small 30 x 40 ft. building (1200 sq. ft.) was built. For the next few years the company was still engaged in repair and machining; by the end of 1950 there were 2 additional employees and the building had been expanded to 2400 sq. ft. Economic conditions swung up and down and there were years when times were difficult. In 1956 the business was liquidated and the machinery sold. Young Mr. Colman had seen what appeared to be a better opportunity.
Television was sweeping through the country and the wholesale electronic parts business was growing rapidly everywhere. With an experienced radio repairman who had also been in the military service during the war, a partnership was formed and a wholesale electronic parts business was set up in the same building at the corner of NE 3rd and Arthur. At the time, television was expanding so rapidly that those TV receivers were sloppily built with very poor quality controls, and the demand for replacement parts was large. Seeing the opportunity to enter the parts business as a manufacturer instead of wholesaling other peoples' products, and with his manufacturing experience to help, the company began to manufacture a few simple repair parts to sell to wholesalers across the U.S.
But a disagreement set in between the two partners as to the proper direction for the future of the company, and after 2 years the business divided into two different enterprises, with the partner buying the wholesale distributorship and Mr. Colman buying the manufacturing portion. The wholesale enterprise moved out to a new location, while the manufacturing of replacement parts for TV sets remained in the same building.
For the next 6 to 7 years the manufacturing business grew rapidly and an additional 1200 sq. ft. were added to the building. The company was now incorporated as Colman Electronic Products, Inc., and additional space was leased in 2 other buildings - one as a warehouse for storage of inventory, the second to house the aerosol division which had been added to the line of products.
But clouds were forming on the horizon. As the years went by, television manufacturers were incorporating better quality control in their products, and advances in engineering and design made the receivers of such better quality that repairs were not needed as frequently.
Also, Japan had begun encroachment into the electronic market, and fewer and fewer products were manufactured in the U.S., so that lower-cost repair parts were now being imported. And not so many parts were being sold; electronic wholesalers began going out of business.
But other kinds of business were expanding. It was decided to look into new fields, and with the assistance of a local office-machine dealer a product-line of about 35 of the faster-selling replacement parts in the office-machine field was introduced to that industry. To differentiate it from the TV business, the office-machine business was called Colman Mfg. Co. Quality and prices were good, and a new business began to grow as the older electronic business contracted.
In the late 1960's the electronic business was closed down and the aerosol division sold to an individual who had been its manager. (This business is still operating in Amarillo as Tech-Spray Company).
By 1971 a decision was made to go into the business machine field full speed ahead. There were almost no independent suppliers of parts for business machines; everything had to come from the machine manufacturers who maintained a very tight grip and almost 100% control over the replacement parts for their machines.
For the next 10 years the business grew rapidly, with many new parts being added each year. Distribution now covered all 50 states, and wholesale distributors were added in Canada and Mexico. In 1981 construction was begun on an addition of 11,800 sq. ft., covering all of the land originally bought in 1948. The building now covered 15,400 sq. ft., but the company occupied only 9500 sq. ft. – the remaining 5900 ft. was being leased to a different company.
As the business continued to grow, more products were added and more employees hired. The tenant's lease was not renewed, and at the beginning of 1989 new offices were built. The total building of 15,400 sq. ft. was now occupied, with paved parking adjacent.
Colman Mfg. Co. now sells its products to dealers in all 50 states, and has 12 wholesale distributors also selling its products throughout the U.S., as well as 6 wholesale distributors in Canada, Mexico and South America. Approximately one half of the product line of well over 1,000 items is manufactured in Amarillo, the remainder being purchased from other manufacturers and re-sold under Colman Mfg. Co. label. It is the largest independent manufacturer and supplier of business machine replacement parts in the U.S.
On January 1, 1995, M.D. Colman sold all assets of Colman Electronic Products, Inc. to Colman Supply, Inc., which is wholly owned by David Gibson. David worked as Manufacturing Manager for Colman Electronic Products, Inc. for 7 years prior to the sale.
The business machine parts business was taking a serious dive due to the prevalence of computers becoming the primary office tool. A series of six complementary product lines were introduced to replace the lagging business machine parts market. Through some very turbulent times, Banking Equipment Replacement Parts and Laser Printer Repair Parts emerged as profitable lines and all other lines except the remaining typewriter parts business were discontinued. It is worthy to note that in the year 2000 we still sold over $500,000 in typewriter parts.
The company has managed an average 20% growth rate per year over the last four years and strives to maintain this growth. With the well rounded management team and stable employees that Colman is blessed with, we do not foresee this as a problem