MANITOWOC, WI — Dramm Corp. is a family business almost 70 years old, but it has changed with the times to make it as new as a spring calf in its dairy farm surroundings of Manitowoc, WI. “We have evolved over the years, but our hallmark has always been quality products that last a lifetime,” said Jessica Reinhardt, marketing and public relations coordinator at Dramm.
The company began in 1945 with a single product designed by John G. Dramm, who wanted a watering tool with a soft, swift stream that didn’t damage the flowers he grew for his florist shop in Manitowoc. That invention, the 400 Aluminum Water Breaker, with 400 tiny holes in the nozzle that apply large quantities of water gently, is the standard today for commercial growers worldwide, said Ms. Reinhardt.
Although the hand-crafted 400 Water Breaker was designed for professionals working in greenhouses and nurseries, home gardeners began to ask for the same watering tools the pros were using — and the pros were using Dramm. The company expanded its product line to include watering and cutting tools for the home gardener and emerged from a basement shop to a 55,000-square-foot facility on the outskirts of Manitowoc that employs more than 50 people.
“We added cutting tools to our full line of Rain Wands, sprinklers, timers, rubber hoses and soaker hoses, watering cans, aprons and other accessories. And when we found that most of the users of our home gardening tools are women,” Ms. Reinhardt said, “we made our gardening products ergonomic, lighter and easier to use and added a rainbow of six colors.” Dramm offers in-store display stands that offer a colorful array of from 24 to 162 of its products.
Newer Dramm offerings are designed for the baby boomer gardeners who might have arthritis or other physical conditions that would be helped by features like foam rubber grips or “one-touch” thumb-controlled valves on watering wands. For the upcoming generation of gardeners,the company has developed shorter 16-inch Rain Wands that weigh only 35 ounces and smaller half-gallon watering cans that children can use, all in six primary colors.
Dramm also got into the environmental movement about 16 years ago when it worked out a deal with the marina in nearby Algoma, WI, a Lake Michigan sports and commercial fishing harbor, to recycle thousands of pounds of fish scraps from a fish-cleaning facility into earth-friendly fertilizer called Drammatic. The organic fertilizer is one of 232 Dramm product listings.
“We are a family-owned and family-operated company,” said Ms. Reinhardt. “Our chief executive officer is Kurt Dramm, son of founder John G. Dramm, and Kurt’s son, Hans, is chief financial officer. Kurt’s daughter, Heidi Becker, appears in many of our TV commercials and promotional materials. Kurt’s son-in-law, Kurt Becker, is director of commercial products and marketing.”
In the machine shop area of the plant, a craftsman demonstrated how a 400 Water Breaker Nozzle is made. The modest profits from Water Breaker tools put Kurt Dramm and his brother, John, through college in the mid-1950s. The process of fashioning the hand-tooled nozzle is repeated about 12,000 times a year. The company makes nozzles with 170 to 1,000 holes for specialized uses and offers a lower-cost die-cast aluminum version of the 400 Water Breaker.