Par-Kut – The First Factory Assembled Steel Building, 1954
The forerunner of Par-Kut was Patterson Engineering & Fabricating of Detroit, Michigan. Mr. Patterson was a “shirt-tail relative” and was making library map tables in 1954 when he was asked to use his fabricating skills to build a newspaper stand for a concession in Detroit. The new idea was that Patterson thought to construct the newsstand out of heavy gauge sheet metal. Thus, the first factory-assembled portable steel building was fabricated, delivered and put into service that year. Sadly, no pictures exist of that first unit.
Our focus is to satisfy our customers and enjoy the long-term relationships we have with our many repeat customers.
As the story goes, one of the earliest parking conventions was held in Detroit, and while they were in town, some of those parking lot operators happened by Patterson’s welded steel newsstand and asked if they could buy a pre-made steel parking booth. “Uncle Pat” promptly invented a metal parking booth and then a trailer to deliver it.
This was innovative at the time since all the other parking lot booths were built on site and had to be abandoned or torn down when the property changed hands. The first booths were fabricated in a garage, but after the 1955 national parking convention, where the concept of a factory-built booth was embraced by the parking industry, the operation moved to a Quonset hut on the north side of Detroit.
My father, Fred W. Duemling, after his time in the U.S. Air Force, began working for Patterson while attending business school. Fred graduated from Wayne State University in 1958 and it was his idea to rename the company PAR-KUT, because that referenced the company’s primary product (parking huts). My dad and Mr. Patterson became partners and incorporated Par-Kut Engineering & Fabricating.
The operation grew as parking lot operators in other cities heard about the pre-fabricated cashier booths. By 1960, they were being delivered as far as Colorado and Utah by Par-Kut’s company truck. Other markets soon developed, including industrial guard shelters and weigh scale booths.
My brother Bill Duemling started with the company in 1976, and soon began to “computerize” the business, starting with manufacturing and purchasing and then branching into customer communications and later, of course, company e-mail and websites. I started cutting the grass and doing other odd jobs for the company when I was 12. I went full time with Par-Kut in 1984, starting in marketing, then sales, and eventually, management and ownership.
The rest of the story is history. Our company has come a long way since the 1950s. Still family owned and operated, Par-Kut occupies two side-by-side factory buildings specially adapted to manufacturing and finishing portable steel buildings. We have shipped buildings to every state in the country and around the globe.
Does Par-Kut dominate its sector of the market?
Par-Kut has established and maintains a reputation for building the highest quality booth in the business. We do not go after every sale, as some projects do not fit our requirements. There absolutely is a large market for factory-assembled buildings out there, with many competitors both large and small. Competition is healthy and makes us perform at our best. Our focus is to satisfy our customers and enjoy the long-term relationships we have with our many repeat customers. Our success is delivering on the promise of high-quality and long-lasting products in smooth fashion.
How does Par-Kut see its relationship with its customers?
We work hard to make the process of purchasing a Par-Kut building as smooth as possible, and to make it a pleasure for our customers to deal with us. Simply put, if it were not for our customers honoring us with their business, we would not exist. As I said, there are many competitors out there, many of whom will sell factory assembled buildings at a lower price. We have to perform better, provide a higher quality product, and deliver better customer service before and after the sale.
Tell us about the importance of a family-owned company.
There is absolutely something special about working in a company that has been owned and operated by your own family for so many years. My grandfather, father, mother, uncle, aunt, brothers, cousins and my own children have worked here at Par-Kut. Thinking about the generations that have been involved with the business, I feel that we have all been blessed to be a part of it. It is awesome that we have the opportunity to continue working with customers my father dealt with 50 and 60 years ago.
Also, within our company, we have long-time employees that are like family – great people that have been here for decades. And with that time of service, the experience, know-how and craftsmanship they bring to the table is of great value. Furthermore, it’s a beautiful thing to know that our company has helped to support so many families for so many years. I am happy that our company has weathered so many economic ups and downs, and am particularly pleased with how we have worked together to get through the Covid pandemic. Last but not least, I am very proud to say that my son Fred is active here at the company, learning the ropes and assuming more responsibilities. Four generations!
Can you pick out one thing that made Par-Kut a leader?
Certainly, being the first company to manufacture a portable steel parking booth gave the company a jump start. However, being able to quickly respond to changing needs in the marketplace, and specifically, being able to produce custom, one-of-a-kind buildings for our customers has been our forte. So many design innovations, improvements and new products have been the result of collaborations between our customers and us. They know that we can and will work with them to solve a problem. It really goes back to our core values: those being to provide high value, and to make it a pleasure for our customers to do business with us.
Tom Duemling can be reached at email@example.com