Orders of gearmotors await shipment at Multi Products Company in Racine.
Mark and Dawn Patzke visit sister Lori’s office for a photo.
BY KATIE MATTESON
Mark Patzke recently gave up his office at Multi Products Company Inc. so the vice president in charge of sales and marketing could have a private office. His office now resides in the supply room, which doesn’t even have a door.
It doesn’t matter to Mark. The company co-owner doesn’t spend much time at his stand-up desk – he’s usually out in the shop working on a design or behind a welding torch. His wife Dawn has stand-up desk too for her billing work in the office.
The other private office belongs to co-owner Lori Patzke, Mark’s sister, who manages customer service and inside sales.
Mark and Lori both started working for their dad, Don Patzke, when they were kids and had assumed more responsibility in the family business as they matured into adulthood. What they didn’t expect was that they would be thrust into ownership and management of the company in 1993 when their dad suddenly passed away.
“I was 27 and found myself in charge of a company with 95 employees,” Mark said.
The company, a designer and manufacturer of sub-fractional shaded pole AC, brushed and brushless DC gearmotors (small electric motors), was founded by the elder Patzke in 1957 as a specialty machine shop for the aerospace industry and expanded in 1958 to provide complete electric gearmotors.
The motors are used in diverse industries, from foodservice equipment and popcorn poppers, to coin changers and bill validators, from pinball machines and redemption games, to oil skimmers and pumps.
As an SOB (son of the boss), Mark said he definitely felt the pressure to continue his father’s legacy but also started putting in own mark on the business right away.
“Dad laid a fantastic foundation,” Mark said. “But on the way home from the funeral we bought a fax machine because there was no way I was going spend time running over to the office products store to pick up the incoming faxes like he had been doing.”
He also wasted no time to begin automating the building processes. He started with a personal pet peeve – building a machine to knock out holes in the junction boxes. “Through the years I did the process manually and knew there had to be a better way,” Mark said.
Through the efficiencies that Mark has introduced, he’s reduced the company’s space needs from 45,000 to 24,000 square feet by selling the company’s original building on Grove Avenue and reduced the workforce from 95 to 30 employees – all while expanding the gross production volume by 20 percent over the past 25 years.
The company produces about 3,000 motors per week, with individual orders ranging from 500 to 1,000 motors. “That’s our niche,” Mark said.
In addition to new motors, the company also provides replacement parts for motors produced by the company all the way back to the early years.
Mark, a graduate of Union Grove High School and Dawn, a graduate of J.I. Case High School, have been married for 30 years and have two adult children. Daughter Tarah works in the office, while son Vince works for a start-up lighting company.
In addition to their dedication to the company and to their family, Mark and Dawn are also very active in the community.
Mark is a member and past president of the Founders Rotary Club. His father was a charter member of Rotary West.
He also followed in his father’s footsteps as a Shriner (that’s right, he wears a Fez for meetings and special events and rides his Harley-Davidson Shrine motorcycle in the area 4th of July parades). In January he was appointed to the Divan (governing board) of the Tripoli Shriners and is in line for the Illustrious Potentate position in 2023.
As a former member of the Racine Harley Owners Group, Mark gave back with food drives and toy runs.
He has also donated blood every eight weeks for the past 11 years.
Dawn was active in Junior League for many years, including serving as president in 2012-2013 and serving as historian for the organization’s 100th anniversary in 2016.
The couple has also hosted 10 Rotary exchange students through the years.
What do they like to do in their spare time? “We love watching ‘How It’s Made,’” Dawn said.
In fact, Mark modified one of his machines using a idea he got from watching the show.
The couple admits they’re both continually in motion and find ways to eliminate clutter – just for fun. No wonder they don’t need chairs for their desks.