Dinns Standouts in Trophy Market
January 22, 2006
By MIKE BURKE
After a half-century in business, Dinn Brothers, "the Trophy People," make a very complicated operation look pretty easy.
In fact, the West Springfield company, which had humble beginnings back in the mid-1950s, is now a high-tech, state-of-the-art-smart company able to turn around orders for trophies, plaques and other items from all over the globe practically at a moment's notice.
The company was founded back in 1956 by William Dinn, who remains chairman of the firm, and his late brother, Paul Dinn. The company actually began when the brothers discovered a need at the then burgeoning Westover Air Force Base for trophies and award plaques for the many sports teams at the base.
From there, the company took off with a customer base including the many schools, sports leagues, business awards for local firms and for specific tournaments in the world of golf and with the Western Massachusetts Golden Gloves tournament.
William's son, Paul J. Dinn, company president, said his dad and uncle started at the old Prew Building in downtown Holyoke, eventually moved their showroom over to South Hadley and then to their longtime factory-showroom at 77 Winter St. in Holyoke.
As the business grew, they consolidated the South Hadley-Holyoke business on Winter Street in 1977, and in 1982, expanded the business in Holyoke. By the year 2000, they had become so busy they needed more space and moved to their present 72,000-square-foot location at 221 Interstate Drive in West Springfield.
"While we left Holyoke physically, we are still connected and belong to the Chambers of Commerce of Western Mass. out of Springfield and the Holyoke chamber as well," Dinn said.
The business and the technology of the business have grown by leaps and bounds, and the Dinns have stayed with it.
"We have to stay up with the technology," said William E. Dinn, company vice president of production. "Things change fast what with computers and the Internet. And we are on top of all that."
In fact, the company can process and turn around orders very quickly.
Earlier this month, there was an order on the Internet from a school in Indiana for 40 trophies and award plaques for football and other sports.
William Dinn showed that the order was turned around in about 12 hours and the items shipped to the school in plenty of time for their award banquet event.
Dinn's uses UPS, the United States Postal Service and FedEx to ship their products.
The company remains very much a family affair with Paul J. and William E. in their capacities and brother Michael K. Dinn as vice president of sales, all sons of William. Cousins are Maryellen Dinn, sales manager, and her sister Nancy, office manager. They are the daughters of company co-founder Paul Dinn, who died in 1965.
Referring to the production end of the business, the company, which employs over 100 people, has the assembly line process down to a science.
"Everything has a place and everything is in place," according to Michael Dinn.
Bases for trophies and the tubing used to help build trophies come in one end of the building, are prepared by trained staff and sent along to be labeled, and then the process takes on the individual style needed to fill the many orders.
"If you need hockey, football, baseball, soccer - whatever - figures on the trophies, those are all in bins and are part of the assembly process. Each batch is carefully matched to order sheets, and the labels are done and placed on each item as needed," William Dinn said.
The labeling part of the business is key.
"In the old days, each label had to be pretty much hand-set and glued or pasted on the trophy. Now with the use of our regular engraving process, we have added laser technology, which can print up to three dozen or so labels in 10 minutes, can cut them and have them ready for placing on the trophies very quickly," Paul Dinn said.
The laser process can also be used to add figures to presentations such as a picture of the late hockey Hall of Famer Eddie Shore, which is on a trophy the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League gives each year to the area's outstanding high school defenseman.
Julie A. Kamrowski of South Hadley, who coordinates the company's Internet service, said about one third of the company's business is now done over the Internet. "It helps speed up our response time because everything is right there for us, the labeling needed and the orders. And we can save items on the computer as well," she said.
Paul Dinn said the company keeps yearly records of trophies and orders to help them anticipate what will be needed in material and work on a year-by-year basis.
"We have an idea how much we will have next year by the volume we do this year, and we can make comparisons so we can check trends and stay ahead of what we need," Paul Dinn said.
Michael Dinn pointed out that much of the company business is in the United States, and they have done work for the Boston Red Sox and the Bruins and the National Basketball Association and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.
They have also done a lot of work with hotels such as the Hilton chain for awards to employees.
"So you could walk into a Hilton anywhere in the world, Saudi Arabia, anywhere, and probably see a Dinn Brothers plaque or trophy on display," Paul Dinn said.
The family takes great pride in its business and keeps an immaculate showroom, which fronts the manufacturing area.
"We have been in business for a long time," Paul Dinn said, "and we intend to continue for a long time."
So the company that began with a two-man operation 50 years ago, is now a strong, multidimensional organization that not only keeps up with the latest in technology, but also keeps the personal touch especially in the Western Massachusetts area.
"We are a people business actually," William Dinn said, "and that's what keeps us on top and how we intend to stay there."