Jake Thompson, right, the new owner of Wilcox All-Pro Tools in Montezuma, is shown with Mitch Hermiston, left, the owner of Remedy Metals Corporation in Coralville and long-time Wilcox All-Pro employee, Norm Smith, middle, at the closing of the sale of the business on Jan. 29. Thompson purchased the business, which specializes in the manufacturing of garden trowels and digging tools, from Hermiston because he wanted to keep it local.
by J.O. Parker
A long-standing Montezuma manufacturing business will remain local after being sold late last month.
Jake Thompson of Montezuma announced last week that he has purchased Wilcox All-Pro Tools from Mitch Hermiston, owner of Remedy Metals Corporation in Coralville.
The deal was finalized on Friday, Jan. 29.
Thompson said the business, which is located at 4880 147th St., east of Montezuma, will continue manufacturing the stainless steel built-to-last garden trowels and digging tools it is known for at its Montezuma location.
“A lot of people don’t realize that these tools are manufactured in Iowa and Montezuma and the company is located just outside the city limits,” Thompson said.
“We are the sharpest tool in the shed,” Thompson said is the company’s new slogan.
The purchase includes the business and equipment to build the tools. The building and grounds are owned by Jim Hughes, owner of Central Iowa Salvage and Fabrication, a business that also operates out of the building. The company repairs stainless steel bins used in large meat packing houses.
Founded in 1968 by the Wilcox family of Montezuma, the company has been producing garden trowels for more than 50 years. The late Ernie Wilcox, who joined the family business in 1973, put the company on the map. He passed away in May 2015.
Thompson said he first worked for Wilcox as a high school senior in 2005. He rejoined the company in December 2019.
When he learned that Hermiston was looking to sell the business, Thompson said he became interested in purchasing the company.
“I wanted it to remain local,” said Thompson. “That has always been my goal.”
He said there was a business in Grinnell and another in St. Louis interested in purchasing the company.
“I knew if they did, the business would have moved out of Montezuma,” Thompson said. “So, I approached Hermiston about buying it and we hammered out a deal.”
Joining him in the business is Norm Smith, who will manage the manufacturing of the product line. Smith started with Wilcox All-Pro in 2001 and has guided the company’s growth since the passing of Wilcox.
Gary Morse, who works part-time, will remain with the company. In addition to owning the business, Thompson will continue building the tools.
“I still get in there and help build the tools and prepare shipments,” noted Thompson.
Alicia Thompson will serve as part-time secretary, bookkeeper and a host of other office-related duties.
“I’m glad I have Alicia,” said Thompson of his wife. “She takes care of the book work and ordering supplies.”
The company, which currently manufactures 10 different digging trowel products, will operate as Wilcox All-Pro, Inc.
The company manufactures digging trowels that are available in nine-, 10-, 11-, 12 -, and 14-inch sizes. They also offer a 10-inch fine pointed trowel, a 13-inch weeder and 12-, 18- and 22-inch long-handled trowels.
The business manufactured, sold and shipped 49,000 digging tools in 2020.
“Sales of the tools have been good due to the pandemic,” said Thompson. “A lot of people are staying home and gardening more.”
The digging tools are used by gardeners, farmers, nursery professionals, greenhouse growers, landscapers, campers and hikers, industry professionals and treasure hunters.
Tools are also manufactured and stamped with company names. Wilcox All-Pro does a lot of work for seed corn companies and other businesses.
“It’s quality,” Thompson said of the tools. “It would be safe to say this is the Cadillac of garden tools.”
“It will last you a lifetime,” added Smith.
The tools are sold around the United States through a network of 30 dealers. Amazon also sells and ships the tools to Mexico and Canada and the digging tools are sold and shipped directly from Montezuma.
Thompson has his sights set on growing the company and introducing the products to new markets.
“My hope is to develop more local retailers,” said Thompson of growing the business.
Thompson said he is excited about this venture and is working hard to bring back the original business plan that Ernie (Wilcox) set out to do.
“There is a big learning curve when dealing with a world market,” said Thompson. “I’m ready for the challenge.”
For more information on the company, visit wilcoxallpro.com or call Thompson at 641-990-5658.