Sticking to Its Philosophies

Economy won't keep Adhesive Technologies from unveiling new products in January

by Colleen Lent

The Hampton Union, Tuesday, October 21, 2003, p.A14

Peter Melendy and Robert Ornsteen of Adhesive Technologies in Hampton
Peter Melendy, CEO and president, and Robert Ornsteen, founder of Adhesive Technologies
in Hampton, stand outside their headquarters.
The company produces commercial and industrial adhesive products.

Much like the year 2003, 1981 was hailed as an unhealthy time to launch a new business, as the economy was emaciated and the White House was scripting legislative prescriptions in an attempt to ease the symptoms.

That didn't keep Peter Melendy, Richard Belanger, and Robert Ornsteen from forming their manufacturing company Adhesive Technologies, Inc. of Hampton.

The company, specializing in glue guns, glue sticks, and other adhesive products, is celebrating its 22nd niversary this month.

Melendy, the chief executive officer and president of Adhesive Technologies, recently talked about the company's growth over the years and the value of cultivating a seedling business idea in a seemingly infertile economic time.

As Melendy was preparing for a trade show in Nevada in mid October, he recalled the early days when his dining-room table served as a bookkeeping desk and Belanger's basement served as a manufacturing site.

Currently, Adhesive Technologies is located on Merrill Industrial Drive with business contract and distribution channels stretching across the world, including Asia, Europe, and North America.

After graduating from the University of New Hampshire and tbe Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, Melendy was itching to put his entrepreneurial skills to the test. His goal was to buy a local company and Adhesive Machinery in Seabrook was at the top of his prospecting list.

However, owner Ornsteen, now retired, sold the business just before Melendy called as a potential buyer. Nevertheless, Ornsteen, still part of the management team under the new leadership, persuaded Melendy to join Adhesive Machinery as an employee. Ornsteen, Melendy, and Belanger, a design engineer at Adhesive Machinery, began talking about the need for a good glue gun to be sold in hardware or do-it-yourself markets.

Melendy quickly added that Belanger was no stranger to innovation, as he invented the Sippy Cup, which was later licensed to Playtex. The trio established their own company Adhesive Technologies Inc., to explore the manufacturing and selling of hardware, consumer, and industrial adhesives and applicators, which didn't compete with Adhesive Machinery's product line.

Adhesive Technologies approached Sears, well-known for its Craftsmen tools and equipment, with schematics for a glue gun to be sold under $10, about 33 percent of the average glue gun price at the time.

The Pro 90, sold under the Craftsmen 1abel, was stocked on store shelves in 1982, selling more guns in one month than Sears had sold in 12 months the year before.

"This created a new price point," Melendy said. "A good idea will float in a bad economy. Luck is a part of success."

Two decades later, Adhesive Technologies is still a manufacturer for Sears. While Craftsmen is certainly a big hardware name, about 50 percent of the company's business is generated through the craft market.

Frequent visitors to Michael's Arts and Crafts, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, and Wal-Mart may have seen Adhesive Technologies glue guns, which are often manufactured under a private label. Considering this market segment, participation in Hobby-Industry-Association-sponsored events is critical for Adhesive Technologies.

The remaining 50 percent of sales are divided between export, industrial, and hardware markets. Ali Cleveland, the safety manager and sales support representative at Adhesive Technologies, provided a range of how the company's products are used. Glue guns and adhesives are used for everything from dried-flower arrangements, to rugs and carpeting, to auto-roof linings, to counter-tops and other solid sur- faces.

The bulk of hot-melt adhesives, such as glue sticks, are manufactured in Hampton while applicators, such as glue guns, are made primarily in China and Taiwan and occasionally in Europe.

"We have relationships around the world," Melendy said. In fact, it's not uncommon for Melendy to embark on a 22-hour flight for an overseas business meeting, only to prepare for the return trip within a day or so after landing. Yet, as he spoke from a trade-show site in Las Vegas, Melendy didn't complain about the commute.

"When you have a purpose, you stay energized," he said. Melendy said it's critical for Adhesive Technologies to actively monitor the needs of customers and prospects, rather than passively sit behind a desk in Hampton. The latter approach results in dangerous stagnation, he said.

The strategy has earned the Granite State manufacturer a host of industry innovation awards. Melendy credits his staff and international business partners including Belanger, for constantly striving to improve application systems, making them easier to use.

Keeping a pulse on the market and taking risks has also resulted in additions to the company's product line over the years, including reactive adhesives.

It has also earned new private label contracts, including one for glue guns for 1990s' television personality and crafter Aleene Jackson, the name behind Aleene's Original Tacky Glue.

"We're an adhesive systems company," Melendy said. By January 2004, Adhesive Technologies is expecting to introduce about 43 new products, some fully patented and some sourced, and all developed within a year.

Melendy shrugs off advice that now isn't the time to unveil new products, especially as deficits, foreclosures, and layoffs are still making the business news headlines.

"A tough economy doesn't mean people aren't interested in new things," Melendy said. It's a business assertion that has stuck with the Adhesive Technologies since 1981.