A transformer, we all have an idea about what it is and what it does. It’s one of those things that we never notice. Its usefulness is obvious, even essential. You can’t connect devices into an outlet if there isn’t a transformer somewhere. Chances are that if you head to the electrical panel or to the back of your building, you’ll discover a transformer and it’s a Marcus.
L-R: Benjamin and Barry Marcus
Marcus Transformers was born in the U.S., in the State of New Jersey in 1942. It was created as part of the war effort. A framed certificate of appreciation now hangs in the meeting room of the first plant opened in Canada, in 1962, in Montreal’s Saint-Henri neighbourhood. The company is still located in Montreal, has two other plants in the area, and does business across Canada and internationally. More and more business takes place online.
The latest member in the family’s lineage is there for a reason. “I studied marketing in New York, and had no intention of coming to work in the family business. As a child, I often played here in this factory, and like all children I wanted the Transformers, not the ones that my father and grandfather made. I finally joined the company three years ago. It’s become my greatest happiness, and I hope that there will be a fourth generation.”
“Benjamin’s history is like mine,” says Barry Marcus, the company’s president and the second generation to run the business. Barry had completed a master’s degree in psychology in the U.S. and was in Montreal to pursue his PhD. Like Benjamin, he worked for the business during his summer vacations. For him the transformers were not toys, just familiar objects. “The company had already been in Montreal for five years. These were years of intense economic activity. Cranes were everywhere, Place Ville Marie was under construction, and Montreal was the site of Expo 1967 and the 1976 Olympic Games. “There was room for a small company and Montreal was the place to be.”
His father, Alvin Marcus, engineer, was his mentor for more than 25 years. “My relationship with my father was fantastic. He liked my ideas and trained me to the point that today I design most of our models.”
For father and son, there is no doubt that demand for quality transformers still exists despite the arrival on the market of inferior transformers manufactured overseas. For these two, the continued success of their business lies in the quality of their processes. They use patented WATT + PLUS technology, which they contend makes all the difference. The company uses only the top winding and magnetic materials. “It’s the standard of power in the electrical industry,” says Barry Marcus.
“It may seem like a cliché to say that having our name on our products has an impact, but it is a fact. We don’t want to put our name on a product that would not meet the expectations of the founder and that made the company’s reputation.” Even today, the company receives calls from U.S. customers we’ve had since day one who ask if the transformer needs any special maintenance — after 50 years. “Often clients realize that the grey box that’s always been there is a Marcus transformer.”
“I had the best mentor possible,” continues Barry Marcus, “and now I’m trying to do the same thing with Benjamin. He brought the company into the 21st century. Our web site generates sales around the world.”
The legacy of a surname: “Marcus” says it all
Technology has changed, the markets are different, but for three generations the company has relied on direct contact and customer service to advertise its products. “We are members of every association,” says Barry Marcus, “and a handshake is still the best way to close a deal.” He believes this will not change, even though the company is conducting more business overseas, including the Middle East. “These customers are looking for both expertise, and speedy delivery and our service even for the most unique applications can’t be matched.”
From one generation to another, the expertise may vary but the family continues to manufacture transformers with the same commitment to quality. Each generation brings the spirit of its time. Many of their business partners and long-time customers in Quebec and Canada are also companies run by second and third generation family members.
What is new is the modernization of the manufacturing process. The market is growing in all directions and the company makes products that no other company manufactures. We were the first to introduce many innovations to dry-type transformers and later revolutionized the control transformer business with unique designs. Today we are virtually the only company still manufacturing 100% of these products domestically.
They watch out for each other all the time, never interrupt, and have total rapport. The pleasure they have in working together is obvious.
Line Goyette is Managing Editor of CEW and LDS; email@example.com.
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