Brothers David Hoff and Stephen Hoff founded Hoffco in 1949, but the company had its roots in a century-old business owned by their father.
In 1865, Ben Starr and Ezra Nye organized a sheet metal business at 185 Fort Wayne Ave., where they made cups, candle molds, fruit cans and other items. The business passed to W.W. Alexander in 1883, which made cornices, ornamental bay windows and metal fronts. The company then was sold to John Schultz and Isaac Lanning.
Harry J. Hoff began working at the firm in the 1920s and owned it wholly by 1935, when he moved Hoff Sheet Metal Inc. to 411 N. Eighth St. The company did metal fabrication and sold and maintained furnaces and air conditioners. Among its notable creations was a huge cross for St. John Lutheran Church.
In the 1940s, David Hoff and Stephen Hoff had the task of trimming grass and brush from the banks of "Stony Gulch" on the family property along Elkhorn Creek. Steve Hoff sought an easier way to handle the task and had the idea to combine a scythe with an outboard motor engine.
Working through their father's company, the Hoff brothers introduced the portable power Scythette in 1949.
The brothers and their father founded Hoffco to handle the power tool business, first operating at 25 Washington Ave. From the Scythette, they developed attachments such as a brush saw, chain saw, rotary tiller, rotary trimmer and sickle bar cutter. The company also developed a chain saw, which it manufactured until the 1970s.
Here's how the company developed:
1955 -- Hoffco's power tools were used around the world, including at the White House.
1958 -- Hoffco was the second-largest manufacturer of go-karts in the United States, and in 1960, the company began sponsoring a go-kart racing team in England and Italy.
1962 -- The company employed 100 people and the Comet division was making clutches, brakes, axels and wheel assemblies.
1964 -- The Hoffs began patenting blade brake clutches for lawnmowers, long before the 1981 federal mandate requiring the safety feature on all lawnmowers.
1968 -- A long strike at Hoff Sheet Metal led the company to liquidate, but Harry Hoff remained an officer of Hoffco.
1972 -- Texan George Ballas came to the Hoffs seeking assistance with his invention, a monofilament trimmer, better known as the WeedEater. Hoffco designed and built all the power WeedEaters from 1972 to 1978, when the brand was sold to Emerson Electric.
1978 -- Harry Hoff died.
1980s -- Hoffco was operating at 358 N.W. F St., where it built a new addition for its Comet Industries division. The company was manufacturing more than 200 products and held more than 100 patents.
1989 -- Stephen Hoff died.
1990s -- Hoffco and Comet Industries employed about 200 people and was among Wayne County's top 25 employers. It had in excess of $17 million in annual sales in 1990.
1993 -- The Tenax Corporation of Indianapolis bought Hoffco/Comet Industries.
1996 -- David Hoff retired from Hoffco. He died in 2007.
1999 -- The company had 1,000 customers in 40 countries. Production expanded to include building cabs for construction and agricultural equipment and mini-bulldozers used in the forestry industry. The company also made parts and products for John Deere, Murray Corp., Homelite and Snapper.
2003 -- A $2.06 million, 10-year abatement was approved by the Richmond Common Council for new equipment at Hoffco for a new product line, a patented rubberized manhole cover that was tested in Richmond.
2009 -- Tenax owner John Bratt announced the closing of the 60-year-old Hoffco.
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