Arthur George Diack
A. GEORGE DIACK’S
"I’m glad I didn’t like fishing."
That’s the way George Diack sums it up as he looks back on the early development of A. GEORGE DIACK INC., now a prospering business venture producing store fixture hardware and featuring his own patented designs. It is a business enterprise which was born out of frustration with a life of retirement – a life that didn’t produce enough action for Mr. Diack.
The business started from a modest 2,000 – square-foot garage in Los Angeles in 1953 and now has become a prosperous industrial venture. The business is now operating in a new building at 1250 Johnson Drive in the City of Industry and encompasses 20,000 square-feet with room to expand to another 10,000 square-feet. The firm has customers in all of the 50 states except Wyoming and ships to foreign countries as far away as Kuwait, Arabia.
As manager of a wholesale hardware company specializing in hardware for the store fixture trade prior to his own business, Mr. Diack found an impasse between the points of view of the customers and the manufacturers. Persistently, the architects and store planners would indicate they wanted items made a certain way and the manufacturers would adopt a "take it or leave it" attitude.
"Because of a change in the administration and the frustration of trying to force unwanted merchandise on customers, I quit" Mr. Diack said. "I spent about three months fishing and camping and soon found that a permanent vacation was as monotonous as working so I made the decision to go into business for myself".
In 1953, he began business with the first item, the Full-X-Tend drawer slide. He later sold the patent rights and returned to his first love – store fixture hardware. "I had spent years calling on architects and users of store fixture hardware and felt I had a working knowledge of what they wanted," he said. "I decided it was time to start making hardware the way they wanted and needed it. First, it was sliding glass doors with a choice of nylon, brass or ball bearing wheels to accommodate doors up to six-feet high."
In 1955, he expanded to larger headquarters in Los Angeles hired more people and printed his first catalog showing track assemblies such as Mirror Frames, Full-X-Tend Drawer Slides, Lock-Level Clamps and an assortment of plastic and metal mirror clips, rosettes etc.
Then came locks that could be installed in the sliding door track of the "H-Bar" shoes which he had patented. Next came partition posts for banks, restaurants, cafeterias and similar facilities. "Customers had been using steel posts which were chrome plated and every scratch resulted in a rust streak," he recalled. "They were put together with screws and rivets galore and looked like a Sunday afternoon job made in somebody’s garage. I perfected and patented the aluminum post assembly with no screws showing and any scratch on the aluminum did not leave rust streaks as it had in steel."
Architects and store planners then expressed a desire for fitting room mirror frames that would overcome faults of existing frames and have such features as minimum metal covering the face of the mirror, air space between the mirror and the wall, minimum visible fastenings and provisions to glaze with vinyl. Department stores wanted a triple mirror frame with a torque hinge that would hold the wings in any desired position when in use. Mr. Diack again answered their requirements, acquiring the patent.
The Knock-Down Showcase which Mr. Diack developed has a fascinating background. The successful bidder for showcases for a Los Angeles department store was located in New Hampshire and the store had specified the hardware that the Diack firm made. Mr. Diack recalls that the successful bidder came to his plant and almost tearfully asked: "George, why don’t you make a knock-down showcase? We have to have the frames made in Chicago, shipped to New Hampshire, glazed, crated and re-shipped to Los Angeles. It takes 21 highway vans to ship them to Los Angeles.
"If they were knocked down they would be shipped in one van. The savings in freight alone would be greater than the normal profit on any job. The high cost from breakage in shipment, claims for damage and overtime required for workers at the last minute is almost as costly as the freight."
Mr. Diack had been working on the idea of a design for a knock-down showcase but had never found time because of the mountain of paperwork required of the businessman by the government. "There was always some kind of government report, complicated bookkeeping on employees or taxes due – but someday I’d do it," he recalls.
That time came unexpectedly in September in 1964, Mr. Diack said. "I’d been working long hours without any time off and finally decided ‘to heck with business’ and took off on a ten-day vacation to Durango, Colorado.
After a wonderful time in Durango, I started home. Just outside a little Arizona town you’ve probably never heard of-Aquila, 75 miles one way or another from Phoenix – it sounded like everything broke loose under the hood of the car. It was a broken crankshaft and would take four days to replace it. There was no choice but to get comfortable in a town that consisted of a service station, one dilapidated motel and a Chinese restaurant."
With nothing else to do, Mr. Diack spent the four days with a pad of paper and a pencil. "The result was my doodling," he says, "was the perfection of the three-legged rounded corner with no visible fastening. With this new corner design came the perfected assembly of the Knock-Down Showcase.
"I had the good sense to date the doodles September 23, 1964 and sign them. They were to become proof sketches for the very first fit-together rounded corner assembly that I later received patents for." He refers to the assembly as "the backbone of our business."
After purchasing two buildings in Los Angeles for the growing operations, the company incorporated on July 1, 1967 as A. George Diack, Inc. However, Diack’s forays into the store fixture hardware industry did not stop with the design and production of the showcase itself.
"One day I was approached by the main installer for the May Company who wanted a lock that would latch during the day without a Key," he said. "I designed and patented the Lock and Latch that prevented theft from unattended showcases and discouraged shoplifters from reaching over a showcase, opening the sliding doors and removing merchandise."
Among other firsts to Mr. Diack’s credit in the way of design are sponge rubber cushioned jambs; mohair wipers and vinyl bumpers for sliding glass doors; overhead track assemblies for pass-through installations with catches and retractable nylon-tipped guides that are completely concealed; semi-rigid polyethylene glazing channel for showcases that suspends the glass in the channel and prevents it from bottoming and reduces the possibility of glass breakage; a showcase frame with overhead track and framed sliding doors designed so that the floor of the case has no track to collect dirt (a feature required by some public health agencies); and packaged showcases that are complete except for the glass.
There are just a lot of people – mainly his customers – that are also glad George Diack didn’t like fishing.
Published in the "City of Industry News"
Vol. XVI, No. 6 – June, 1977
City of Industry, California
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