New start for General Tools & Instruments

A new moisture meter is just one example of General’s innovations.

New York City-based General Tools & Instruments is beginning a new chapter in its colorful (black and yellow) history.

The company was acquired by New York City-based investment firm Highroad Capital Partners in February. Terms of the deal were not released. But in an interview with HCN at the National Hardware Show, principals from Highroad Capital said they liked what they saw in the tool company, and vice versa. 

"What we look for in a company profile is a great brand name and great management team," said Jeffrey M. Goodrich, partner of Highroad Capital. "That's what we see here in General." 

Goodrich described the acquisition as a "platform" investment, meaning it is the first in a specific field, setting the stage for add-on acquisitions in related businesses.

Highroad acquired the company from Gerald and Martin Weinstein, grandsons of founders Abe and Lillian Rosenberg. 

The company was founded in 1922 as General Hardware Manufacturing, and it has rolled out thousands of products since its first -- interestingly, an egg slicer -- hit the market. General Tools helped found the early version of the National Hardware Show back in 1946, and now stands as the last tool manufacturer in a Manhattan neighborhood that once thrived with tool makers. 

Plans now call for taking the company to a new level, as well as moving headquarters out of the city to Secaucus, New Jersey.

CEO Joe Ennis expressed enthusiasm for the company's new direction. 

"General Tools was a great family-owned business, with all the good traditions that go with the family company," he said. "But we were bumping at the top of where we could grow. We needed capital, and we needed resources to take the company to the next level." 

The company's mission to develop new products will not change, he said. And the opportunity for growth with the acquisition is real, he added. 

A big part of the company's culture of development is a metric called the vitality index, what Ennis described as "the measure of newness. The intent is to have 20% of our sales in products that we did not have three years before."

The company's booth here at the National Hardware Show promoted a variety of products, including moisture meters, multi-bit screwdrivers, lighted precision handtools, boroscopes and digital T-bevels. 

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