Tuesday, January 31, 2012

An American Tale of Fishing Industry Success

All American stories don't necessarily start out that way and this one is no exception. Ninety years ago, a young man from Germany came to this country to fulfill his dream and to work hard and prosper.
He accomplished this feat and more, but, like all successful American tales, it took a long arduous time and dedication to his dream and a little good luck to succeed!
Today, we all take the quality of Penn Reels and Rods for granted. Most of us have grown up using these fine products to reel in our weekend prizes. Always good, always dependable, always ready for the biggest "fight" we could find for it, Penn always delivered. No matter what model of rod or reel, nor what age they were when we received them, they would always come through and provide for our expectations, as we expected them to.
With this as a history, we very rarely thought about what a terrific American story our builder of these excellent rods and reels had, but that story has been there for us or any other one of us that would care to explore it. The journey began in 1922 when young 25 year old, Otto Henze arrived in America and found employment.
After ten long years of struggling, working and saving as a machinist for Ocean City Reels Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (naturally), this German immigrant learned and plied his craft to perfection hoping that someday his turn would also come, a chance for his dream of a machine shop of his own to build reels of his own design and his own quality standards.
Finally, that chance took root in 1932. Otto had saved just enough to rent a small machine shop on the third floor of a building on North Third Street, in Philadelphia.
Using that as a beginning, Otto worked harder and using two of his own designs, he started. Suddenly, after creating a reel for surf fishing (the model F) and one general fishing reel (the model K), an auto supply company in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania gave him his initial order.
From that point business for Otto's fitful business took off. Even though this was the heart of the American depression, fishing for the eastern coast was a viable and cheap means of being able to put food on a families table and this also helped to support Otto's company's financial efforts.
Initially, his company only made two types of reels, the F and the K, but made two styles of the model K, one had a star drag wheel (which helped to prevent backlashes) and the other, did not! His company flourished.
Many reels were soon to follow, but none more popular and famous than the 1936 creation of the "Penn Senator", a reel created to catch just about any fish in the ocean and a favorite of most boat captains that are frequent tournament winners!
As many of our American stories go, there are many "glitches" that have led to their success and Penn Rods and Reels are no exception. In 1948, Otto died suddenly, but as good fortune and this American story would have it our story takes a turn for the better, his wife, Martha was there to take over!
Up til this point, Otto's company, while having a sterling reputation for quality and substance was only regionally known and sold, but Martha had bigger fish to fry (pardon the pun)! Through her stubborn, decisive and quality leadership Penn Reels, took on a national and world-wide market and succeeded.
In the coming few years, Penn, having been asked countless times by their customers, started designing and building rods of the same substance and quality and style as their reels. It didn't take long till their public took notice of this and Penn quickly became just as famous for their rods as their reels!
Following Martha's management/ownership tenure till the present, this successful, American company has been bought and sold several times to various companies, but still maintains a quality reputation.
Currently, it is owned by K-2 Incorporated, since 2007 and holds a startling record of over 1400 saltwater fishing records, according to the IGFA (International Game Fishing Association).
This was a truly American tale, an immigrant coming to America filled with hopes and dreams of an abundant life, full of promise. A German came and morphed into his idea of America by trying to achieve his dream, or vision of America and in that fulfillment it became an American Brand that is today's juggarnaut in a uniquely American industry and more to the point a dream that you and I and many other may share in whenever we participate in our "weekend adventures" on the water!
Go Get 'em!

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