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How did The Bradbury Company all Begin?

As we celebrate the 65th anniversary of The Bradbury Company this year, we take a moment to reflect on its humble beginnings. Looking into a past interview conducted by Floyd and David Bradbury, we uncover the story of how it all began.

The Early Years

During his early years, Floyd served as a staff sergeant in the Air Force for four years, specializing in aircraft maintenance and ensuring the engines were flight-worthy. Despite the opportunity to continue his military career, Floyd decided to venture back to Coffeyville, Kansas, where he found himself inspecting airplanes for Continental Can. It was here that Floyd met Dorotha Seward, his future wife.  Like Floyd, she shared a passion for aircraft. As they started a family, they embarked on a series of moves across Kansas, taking on various jobs to support their livelihood. Their journey eventually led them to Wichita, where Floyd pursued his education while working at Beech Aircraft as a craftsman.

While at a High School reunion Floyd reconnected with a previous classmate and the offer was presented to move to Moundridge, KS and work at Wichita Roller Die. Taking a leap of faith, with a business that had just begun, Floyd, Dorotha, and their family made the move to join Wichita Roller Die in Moundridge. Here, Floyd and his co-workers were involved in the engineering, machining, and assembly of machinery. As Floyd said, "You did it all when I first started, you knew how to run every machine in the shop". Wichita Roller Die was manufacturing collars and grain bin components specifically for local farmers and their grain bins at that time. Despite the seasonal nature of Grain Bins and insufficient volume to operate full-time, they persevered. Unfortunately, the business faced financial challenges and had to be auctioned off. Undeterred, Floyd and a local farmer figured they could buy some of the equipment and find a new location in Moundridge, KS. This business went on to be known as Roll Form Products Incorporation. After a year, Floyd had another decision to make. The farmer had lost interest in the business and wanted his money in the next 60 days. With his strong work ethic and great sales skills, Floyd was confident that he could meet the deadline in 60 days by making a few sales. After repaying the farmer Floyd made the decision to move on with the business. In 1964, Floyd renamed the business The Bradbury Co., Inc. This marked the beginning of building a loyal customer base and expanding the business. 

David Brought Back Home

David, Floyd's son, has always been a big part of the business and learned much knowledge from his dad growing up. After High School, David chose to attend Wichita State University and concurrently work with Beech Aircraft on machining parts. He knew he could excel in this field because of what he had learned in the shop growing up with dad. David received a pivotal call in 1969 from his dad prompting him to make a choice about his future plans. Opting to return and work alongside his father in the Bradbury factory, David embraced the opportunity to contribute to the family business and carry forward the legacy. David talks about how his father, Floyd, imparted invaluable knowledge by teaching him the ins and outs of operating various machines. This early exposure laid the foundation for David to envision a future in the manufacturing industry, drawing upon the expertise passed down from his dad and several key employees including Karl Voth, Louis Wedel, and Jim Graber. Understanding these machines proved to be a significant asset for The Bradbury Company, enhancing their ability to effectively convey their business offerings and secure sales.

The Bradbury Company Starting Out

The Bradbury Company during the early years was buying coils and forming parts upon customer request. Despite the initial challenges of receiving payment upon product delivery, Floyd introduced a 30% down payment policy to sustain the business. Floyd reflects on how in the early days, seasonal jobs played a crucial role in sustaining both his family and the business. They actively sought out customers in need of metal material forming services, David - Dick Braun - 70sready to meet their needs and build lasting relationships. The business overtime evolved into a model where Bradbury manufactured roll forming machines for clientele throughout the world, enabling them to efficiently produce their desired products on-site.

With Floyds background in the airfield, they eventually had their own airplane at Bradbury. This airplane was flown all over to connect with current and potential customers. As well as taking customers around to show them Bradbury machines and the facility in Moundridge. Paul Dearing - David - Chad - 70sA memorable time with the airplane they recalled involved a customer in Southeast Kansas. When Floyd received a call from them stating, "We are in a breakdown situation and need a Bradbury part, with this issue we might consider switching to another company next time." Floyd, true to his character, refused to let this valued customer slip away. With determination, Floyd asked, "Where exactly are you located at your plant right now?" Upon receiving their response, he instructed them to wait outside as he and David prepared to deliver the needed part. In just under an hour, the duo dropped the part from their airplane, landing it in the field by the parking lot where the customers were standing. This gesture not only showcased Bradbury's commitment to customer satisfaction but also solidified the bond with their clientele. The Bradbury Company still resides in Moundridge, KS in a new location that is much larger. The global headquarters has over 350 employees at the 260,000 plus square foot facility, and almost 800 employees worldwide. This was all made possible with the early sacrifices Floyd, David, and many key employees made early on.

One important piece of Floyd and Davids journey ended up at the new facility. The first Bradbury roll former is showcased in the Bradbury Hall of fame area when you first walk in. This machine was purchased by Zeffer Awnings in Hutchinson, KS, where it was used to form metal awnings. After many years had gone by of not seeing the machine and knowing Zeffer Awnings had been shut down, Floyd and David Bradbury were on the lookout for the first machine. David reached out to an 80-year-old gentleman who had previously worked for Zeffer, leading him in the right direction. Eventually, the machine was discovered in Hays, KS, still operational when David located it. Drawing from his father's teachings, David negotiated a deal to reclaim the machine, which now resides in Bradbury's front hall of fame.

Thank You to All

Floyd and David are very thankful for the sacrifices the family made back in 1959. At one point in time, every one of Floyd and Dorotha's children worked for the company. Other families, including the Voth's, Graber's, Durst's, Blaylock's, and Kaufman's have also had generations of family work at Bradbury. Throughout the interview Floyd and David talked about how many great people have worked at Bradbury and still do while saying thank you to each one. "There is so many people who truly care about the business and the Bradbury name." David says, in addition to the incredible customers that Bradbury has had the pleasure of serving along its journey. This year we are celebrating 65 years of The Bradbury Company thanks to a move and sacrifice Floyd and his family made back in 1959.



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