On the morning of April 9, 1940, Nis A. Pedersen biked home from the bank, a newly-minted business owner with the deed for his smithy in his hands.
Pedersen was, for the moment, unaware of his unfortunate timing; the German army was simultaneously invading his home of Denmark as part of the Nazi sweep across Europe.
Starting a business always brings challenges, starting a business during a war and in an occupied country is almost unimaginably daunting. But Pedersen worked diligently to establish his smithy, Nisap Masinfabrik, and took extra work shoeing horses to make ends meet, according to accounts from his family members. His wife, Ingrid, said having good neighbors made the difficult times easier to bear.
“When the streets started smelling of burned rye, we knew that we would soon gather for a cup of substitute coffee and barley meal bread,” she wrote in a memoir published on the company's website.
“We learned to appreciate the good people, living around us, in a time when the world was out of order.”
The Chicago-based company has had a long term working relationship with Logitrans, and has been a wholly-owned subsidiary since 2006. Collaboration began when leaders from the two businesses met a trade show in Europe in the 1980s, Jorgensen said. He said it was then that those heading up Interthor decided to bring the product known as Thork-Lift to the U.S.; a move that met with huge success and continues today to be one of the company's most recognizable products.
"When we brought that to the market, it didn't exist over here," said Jorgensen. Therefore, the brandname 'Thork-Lift' has become the generic product name for a skid lift within certain industries, like the iPod brand name is sometimes used as a generic product name for any digital music player.
Interthor's name was retained following the purchase by Logitran because the American company has been in operation by that name since 1957, Jorgensen said.
As vice president of sales for Interthor, Jorgensen's role in the U.S. is to build closer relationships with dealers in the field, while also reporting directly to the Danish headquarters.
The company is now in the third generation of family leadership, as Pedersen's son, Erling, recently handed over the reins to his two daughters at an anniversary party in Denmark. They have divided duties of running the factories and heading up sales and Erling Pedersen is still involved in the business as senior adviser.
With a total of 55 countries receiving exports from the Danish manufacturer, Europe remains the biggest market for Logitrans. Interthor handles sales in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and South America. Building a bigger presence in the U.S. market is part of a major corporate strategy as the company marks 75 years since Pedersen launched the business in the midst of war, according to Jorgensen.
He said there has been growing interest in the company's reel handling solutions. Interthor is, therefore, introducing a new Reel Rotator during the 2015 Graph Expo Show in Chicago from Sept. 13 to 16.
Another product that was launched earlier this year is the LogiQ. Quarter pallet displays have been trending in Europe for some time, according to Jorgensen, who said it allows for the display of four quarter pallets of differing products simultaneously on the retail floor instead of putting a full skid of the same product on the super market floor. It is especially popular among smaller retailers.
“It is a way to increase sales per square foot,” Jorgensen said.
The LogiQ is one of the few products on the market that can actually move a quarter pallet; so Interthor leaders feel the company is in a good position when the market takes off in the US.
In addition to bringing products like these to the American market and continuing with programs like a quick ship inventory of bestselling products, Jorgensen said in the coming years Interthor leaders will look to continue with positive trends, expanding product sales and in building closer relationships with dealers. “We feel strongly that is the way to boost sales,” he said. “Our goal is to double our turnover.
We're on a good path to do it.”
Eileen Schmidt is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Greater Milwaukee area. She has written for print and online publications for the past 12 years. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit eileenmozinskischmidt.wordpress.com to contact Eileen.