DRACUT -- They've quietly gone about their business, manufacturing the world's finest floor sanders, from their 8,000-square-foot-facility on Lakeview Avenue in Dracut.
The Essex Silver Line company, tucked away from the road at the end of the parking lot adjacent to Dracut Appliance, has been in business for almost 55 years. Their sanders have polished the fabled parquet floor of the Boston Garden and made numerous appearances on various home improvement television shows.
Essex supplies a wide range of rental products, designed for the do-it-yourselfer, as well as a professional line of sanders, polishers, refinishers and carpet cleaners, designed for the industrial contractor. With foundries in New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, every Essex Silver Line machine is built in Dracut and every single machine is run extensively before it leaves the building.
Francis Barous began the company in 1958, handing it down to his two sons, Frank and Dennis in the mid-1970s. John Goddard is the company's vice president of sales and marketing. He boasts that Essex Silver Line has a national reputation for making the best machine in the business.
"Our machines don't wear out, which is good and bad," he jokes. "Nobody's replacing them. There's no planned obsolescence. We're working ourselves out of a job."
Q: Where does the name, Essex Silver Line, come from?
A: "The company started out on Essex Street in Lawrence in 1958."
A: "It was called Essex Machine Sales at the time. Frank Sr. sold sandpaper and floor finishes to the paint industry before there were any rentals. Someone asked him if he could sell a floor sander and he said 'I don't see why not.' Eventually, when one of his competitors bought the company that made the sander he was selling, he said, 'I'll just make my own.' The company was then called Essex Machine Sales and Silver Line Floor Sanders. It made sense to shorten it to Essex Silver Line. They moved out of Lawrence and into this building around 1974 or '75."
Q: Can an individual homeowner come in and buy a sander?
A: "If they want to, sure. If they're starting a business. I'd sell it to them. We used to sell directly but mostly we work through our distributors. An individual customer would probably be better off going that route. Our 110-volt equipment, our edgers and sanders, are sold mostly to the rental industry and independent stores and distributors. You can get them in True Value and Do It Best hardware stores and we have a couple of distributors in Boston and New York who sell our 220-volt machines, the contractor machines."
Q: Are there different sanders for different floors?
A: "The majority of the floors will be done with a drum sander and an edger, our SL7 and SL8. Our equipment is designed to be used by the do-it-yourselfer. You can't hurt your floor with our equipment. Our machines have soft, rubber drums and use a variety of sandpapers. In 2005, we came up with a hook-and-loop drum that sticks the sandpaper right to the drum and makes the machine even that much easier to use."
Q: How many people do you employ?
A: "OK, let me count. . . 12 people, including Frank and Dennis."