Graber Manufacturing Inc.
- Written by: Jeanee Dudley
- Produced by: Ian Nichols
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
The Graber family has been in the metal bending business since 1939, when The Graber Company began manufacturing parts for blinds and window treatments. Over the last 75 years, through several generations, a family history of quality manufacturing has evolved. In 1974, this pattern included building automotive bicycle racks.
In 1989 brothers Tom and John Graber formed Madrax, a brand dedicated to promoting safe and low-impact travel through creating diverse bicycle parking and storage products that are in use with commuters and recreational bicyclists throughout the country. In 2000, the company launched Thomas Steele, a manufacturer of quality outdoor furnishings; Graber Manufacturing Inc. (GMI) was the corporate titled later formed.
Tracy Graber, Tom’s daughter and now human resources manager for GMI, proudly carries on the family tradition. Tracy grew up in the business and takes great pride in her family’s commitment to products that serve community spaces and unparalleled service.
“We work with municipalities and commercial customers,” Tracy explains. “Our team takes a lot of pride in our approach to customer service. When you call our office, you won’t talk to a recording. We have experienced people who are knowledgeable about our products and are willing to go above and beyond for customer service and expediency.”
Better communities through benches and bike racks
GMI’s product lines are geared toward walkable communities. In the municipal end of the business, the crew works with city planners who are doing streetscape renovations. These projects frequently feature the Thomas Steele line, including benches, tables and trash receptacles, as well as outdoor bike parking. In the private sector, the company works with contractors, building owners and property managers for outdoor landscaping projects and bicycle storage solutions.
The crew works with clients across the country to provide innovative solutions for transportation and use of space. Recent commercial work includes projects with the village of Maple Bluff in Madison, Wisconsin. The team worked with the village’s recreation director and deputy treasurer, Curt Erikson, to create and deliver outdoor space components for local Beach Park. Scope of work included a themed, custom bicycle rack.
GMI has also worked with AT&T’s SoBi (Social Bicycles) program, which offers public bicycle sharing with several high-tech aspects. The SoBi bikes feature an integrated locking system with GPS tracking, as well as ride safety, stability and mobile applications that allow users to find and reserve bicycles in advance. This challenging project required the Madrax team to create a unique bicycle rack design that would meet the financial limitations of the program while meeting the size and shape requirements of the fleet.
With another recent project, GMI provided Thomas Steele furnishings to the Parkview Christian Church outside of Chicago. The church was undergoing a renovation, including an outdoor plaza area for parishioners to enjoy. GMI worked alongside the project’s construction manager, Jonathan Gasior, of Michuda Construction to design and implement specialized benches and receptacle to fit the architect’s vision for the space.
GMI does a lot to contribute to a greener planet. The team works with municipalities to create resources and spaces that make it easier for residents to choose modes of transportation with less environmental impact. On top of that, the company’s bicycle racks are made with 90 percent recycled steel. High durability and low maintenance requirements reduce energy and other resources needed to keep products functional. These racks do not need to be replaced as often as more traditional options.
It comes as no surprise that GMI is a repeat participant in the annual Greenbuild Conference and Expo (Greenbuild). Tracy has attended the last three shows and says she enjoys the experience of meeting other industry professionals and talking with potential partners about how her team can help them build better spaces.
“One of the greatest benefits of attending the conference is the exposure we get,” she explains. “I think it is really important that there is a green company that enhances outdoor spaces. About 95 percent of our suppliers are located within 100 miles of our plant. The stainless steel that we use is made up of 90 percent recycled materials and we also have benches that contain recycled plastics. People do not always think of newly manufactured products as being made with recycled materials.”
Greenbuild helps to confirm the company’s mission in the industry. “I take a lot of pride in what we do on a personal level,” Tracy notes. “I have been in this business my entire life and we currently employ four other families, as well. We have created a family within our company and that extends to our customers. We support their missions and they help us grow.”
Tracy foresees a lot of new opportunities for growth in the immediate future. As individuals, companies and local governments recognize the increasing benefits of building walkable and bike-able communities, demand is growing for GMI products. “We are headed in the right direction,” Tracy says. “I’m looking forward to seeing more progress in building complete streets where bike lanes and walking lanes are available.” As this vision gradually becomes a reality in the coming years, Graber Manufacturing Inc. will be ready to help companies and municipalities accommodate greener traffic.
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