Originally Published – Tuesday, March, 1990 – Bristol Press – Business & Industry Special Section
In about six months, a revolutionary new earring will hit the market by storm and a Bristol firm will have played an important part in its design and production. That firm is not a jeweler, fashion designer, or manufacturer. When a former film producer turned inventor conceived his new design for earrings, he turned to Radcliff Wire, Inc. located on Ronzo Rd.
“That’s one of the thrills of being a small business,” said Jeanne Radcliff president of the custom wire manufacturing business. “We’re very often in on the design phase of a product. And we et to work with some real characters!”
Catering to the specific needs of both small and large customers is how Radcliff Wire began. Founder Don Radcliff worked for Connecticut Spring thirty years ago and as that company’s purchasing agent had trouble buying the type of flat wire in the quantity he needed. He found his market niche and he filled it with Radcliff Wire, Inc. The company celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 1989.
“A lot of our business is done right here in Bristol for spring manufacturers,” said Carl Knauer, sales manager, “But a lot of our business is also done for companies and products that are used by everyone.” Radcliff supplies wire products to such commercial giants as ITT, AT&T, Zenith, RCA and Pro Toothbrushes.
Yes, toothbrushes. Radcliff Wire is used to hold in place the individual bundles of brushes that comprise a toothbrush. A very small piece of wire is pushed through the middle of each bundle as it’s placed in the plastic head of the toothbrush.
“And there must be a phenomenal amount of toothbrushes made,” said Radcliff. “That piece of wire is very small but we provide a lot of it.” Radcliff Wire is also used in the manufacture of eyeglasses. Different shapes are used in the earpiece, nose bridge and frame of the glasses. Radcliff supplies wire for Spiedel watch bands, a thin wire used between the metal bars of the band to hold it together. The company makes special wire for the automotive and aircraft industries. Radcliff products are shipped all over the U.S., and to Canada, South America and, in limited quantities, to Europe. With the reforms taking place in the Communist Bloc countries, Knauer thinks that Radcliff, as well as many other American companies, will see an increase in European sales.
All of Radcliff Wire Inc.’s products start round. Different machines press the wire into flat strips with either slightly rounded or sharp edges. A Turk’s head machine can press the round wire into squares, ovals, diamonds for aircraft industry use, and, can even press in grooves, notches or curves. The company uses copper, stainless steel, carbon steel, beryllium copper alloy, brass and seven other metals and alloys to produce the wire.
“Last year was an excellent year. The economy was going flat out and so were we,” said Radcliff. “This year the business is steady. Customers are a little more conservative. People are being careful with their inventory levels. I’d like to foresee a boom. I don’t, but I do see steady work.”
Radcliff credits her 35 employees for both quality work and for their contribution to the community.
“I’m proud of the employees and their involvement,” she said. “They’re always generous to the United Way.” Radcliff employees have also participated in the March of Dime’s Walk America. The company received a Beautification Award from the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and is a Training Station for the Bristol School System’s Cooperative Work Experience program.
From springs to spark plug adaptors, from eyeglasses to watch bands and now earrings, Radcliff Wire, Inc. is as versatile, innovative and diverse as a small company can be.