John Stortz & Son has a history that began 161 years ago. Defying statistics, Stortz tools operates as a 5th generation family business. “Only about 30% of family businesses survive into the second generation, 12% are still viable into the third generation, and only about 3% of all family businesses operate into the fourth generation or beyond.” The continued success of our company is the understanding that tradesmen need high quality tools for their specific trade.
Stortz has been operating out of the same building in Old City, Philadelphia for the company’s life time. The area was once an industrial landscape with businesses like Dietz and Watson, Strauss Tobacco, and Thomas Scientific Instruments nearby. As the years passed, residential buildings have taken over but Stortz still remains. For an in depth overview of the company history, check out these images of material written up many years ago. Page 1 & 2.
The ability to adapt to current business trends and maintain an evolving product offering is a primary goal. The types of tools that sold back in the early days are no longer relevant in certain instances. The founder of the company in 1853 began by manufacturing ice skates. During the 1900’s Stortz provided the US Armed Forces with their requirements for specialized hand tools. During World War II, Stortz had a war rating to purchase steel and made only one item, caulking iron sets of 12 pcs to be used on supply ships with wooden decks. After the war, manufacturing went back to hand tools mostly in the building trade for new homes as men returned from the war. The focus throughout though has always been specialized hand tools for various industries.
The current business model for Stortz has altered by means of the internet and using its power to sell tools all over the world. The internet also provides a means of sharing information that would otherwise be unknown unless you happened to visit our facility in Philadelphia. Below you will find pictures of our 200+ year old building and how Stortz operates.
210 Vine St Building
Once you enter the building the Stortz showroom is to the right. Stortz Tools is not a retail store in the traditional sense but we do get visitors now and then. We like to show off some models of past tools that are no longer being produced as well as our current line. Masonry, roofing, cooperage, paint scrapers, and shipbuilding tools can all be found in this room. The harpoon on the ceiling is not for sale.
This is the garage that warehouses some of our inventory. The ground floor of the building is 8,000 sq ft and breaks up in 6 buildings on Vine and New Street. The warehouse is located in the New St buildings which were constructed in the 1950’s. The buildings on Vine St are all considered historical within the city of Philadelphia and go back more than 200 years. John Stortz and Son is one of the oldest businesses in Philadelphia.
This is an old 10 ton press that is used to shear metal. This press has been recently used to cut 10 ft lengths of steel into 6″ blades for the Stortz Ice Chopper. The press has been motorized but is still belt driven. If anything breaks down when using this type of equipment, it is difficult to find knowledgeable people to repair it. Machinery like this belongs in a museum and is a jaw dropper when seen in person.
This is an open die forging hammer and furnace. Stortz still take requests for some custom made tools. This setup for manufacturing is an art form that is a skill few have. Modern technology and equipment makes this setup an antiquated way of producing tools but it is neat to create tools that you can say you made yourself.
This room is set up with grinding wheels and wire brushes. When rough castings come back from the foundry, they make their way into this room. All castings are hand ground to become a finished product. Many hours have been spent in front of the wheel.
We always love hearing from our customers and any thoughts you may have on how to improve current tools or ideas for new tools. We would be unable to stay in business if it was not for our interaction with our customers. The best ideas come from the people using the products day in and day out.
The Stortz Facebook page is also a great way to stay in touch with the latest developments with our company. Any pictures of work that you may have done with the aid of tools can also be displayed proudly.