Chuck Gerber along with his brother, Pete purchased Bohn Manufacturing in 1969. Glen Bohn of Bohn Manufacturing had been manufacturing picnic tables for about 10 years when fire destroyed his manufacturing building. Also lost was his machinery and inventory. Glen was not interested in rebuilding and wanted to sell the business. A deal was struck and Gerber Manufacturing was formed to purchase the business in December of 1969.
A building was found on the west side of Middleton, Wis., to start the new business. The building was an old barn which had been remodeled into usable manufacturing and office space. Chuck took care of the sales and promotion while Pete did the manufacturing, shipping and office duties.
The picnic table frames were welded, painted and shipped from Middleton. The painting process was quite unique. A tub about 5’ long x 3’ x 10” deep was filled about half full of paint, and the frames and other parts were hand-dipped into the paint and hung on a rack to dry. It was a very messy job, but the coverage was great after the parts hung overnight to dry and were packaged the next morning for shipment. Green and brown colors were standard; the same as is used do today with the addition of custom colors.
Chuck spent most of his time on the road selling the product to the recreation industry. In the early 70s Disney was building in Florida and there were many campgrounds sprouting up off interstate highways on route from the north to Disney.
In 1975, Chuck sold his interest to Pete to pursue another business designing and building playgrounds for schools and public parks. A fire destroyed the building and contents of Gerber Manufacturing in 1979. To relocate the business, Pete purchased a building in Madison, Wis., at 2917 Latham Drive.
Pete passed away in 1998 after many years of successfully manufacturing picnic tables for the park and campground market. Chuck Gerber and his nephew, Brian Legler purchased the company and building to continue the operation. Brian is the president and general manager. Chuck is semi-retired but still spends time in the operation.
Gerber now offers picnic tables, park benches, park grills and bike racks for the commercial market, and the manufacturing, shipping and office are still located on Latham Drive in Madison.
We asked Chuck about their green efforts, and he told us that, “We offer recycled plastic for the picnic table seats and top. The demand for this product has increased every year, and this plastic is a very durable and maintenance-free product. The color is molded throughout the products, is easy to clean, and never rots or splinters.”
Uniqueness of Gerber tables
The main things that set Gerber tables apart from competitors is their quality of product and consumer service, along with being very flexible in dealing with their customers’ needs. “We do not try to do everything and have a very limited range of products, but the ones we manufacture are all proven products,” Chuck explained. “To describe our company, I would say that we manufacture quality picnic tables, benches, and bike racks for the park and recreation industry, and we construct all products with quality care.”
“Our tables have the convenient ’walk-in’ design with nothing to step over, yet seats are attached so there’s no tipping. They slide very easily for mowing and the legs do not stick out behind the seats for people to trip over. We also have a three-year limited warranty on all parts against failure due to corrosion
atural deterioration or manufacturing defects. This warranty does not include any cosmetic issues or wear and tear from normal, everyday use,” Chuck said.
Gerber tables also use the finest materials, not seconds, reject, or “thin wall,” but “prime-grade” hotroll steel. Brown or green are the standard paint finish colors, but a variety of other colors are available. Self-tapping lag screws are standard, (no match drilling of lumber, and no holes in the lumber for water to accumulate). Carriage bolts are optional, and all fasteners are galvanized and included in the price of the frames. Stainless steel fasteners are provided when recycled plastic tops and seats are ordered.
The framework is sold with or without lumber, and if someone does want lumber, Gerber tables offer a #1 Southern yellow pine that is kilndried. Staining with redwood or walnut preservative is available, as well as aluminum and recycled plastic, to be used in place of lumber. Most other tables do not have “center channel,” but Gerber tables do. “Our unique center channel ties in the three-board top to resist warpage, resulting in a flatter, stronger tabletop. The braces from the end frames attach to the center channel for added strength,” Chuck told us.
No matter if you are looking for tables, bike racks, andor grills, Gerber products are ideal for campgrounds, resorts, RV parks, picnic groves, and other areas that are associated with outdoor recreation and areas that are semi-supervised. They truly are top-quality and built to last.