Grasshopper Named to Wichita Business Journal 2020 Hall of Fame
Posted on:Sep 15, 2020
Earlier this month, The Wichita Business Journal announced that Grasshopper Mowers was inducted into their 2020 Hall of Fame. Factors contributing to the induction are the company's Kansas roots, multi-generational family ownership, commitment to innovation and long-term viability.
This year marks 62 years in business for the Kansas-born and family-owned Grasshopper Mowers.
That fact alone speaks to the manufacturing company’s stability over the years, and especially its ability to pivot and innovate in the face of disruption.
“I think our people are very creative, and we know that there’s going to be downturns, and we know there’s going to be upturns, so you’ve got to take the good with the bad and we try to average it out,” said Stan Guyer, president of Grasshoppers’ parent company, Moridge Manufacturing. “When we do hit a downturn we look at our plan, try to see where we can upgrade and make us more efficient for the next upturn.”
Moridge is a Hall of Fame winner in the WBJ’s 2020 Manufacturing, Wholesale and Distribution Awards.
The company got its start in the 1950s on the family farm of Elbert and Marvel Guyer in Osborne, Kan. Elbert Guyer developed a portable recirculating batch grain dryer that proved a significant innovation for the agricultural industry.
The founding Guyers would soon move the operation off the family farm and incorporate as Moridge Manufacturing in Moundridge in 1958.
The Grasshopper mower was developed in 1965 and was then produced in a parallel assembly line along with the grain dryer for several decades. In the ‘80s, Moridge was forced to pivot its operations when Jimmy Carter enacted a grain embargo that completely tanked the sale of grain dryers.
“We went from full steam ahead to complete reverse,” Stan Guyer recalled. “It was a volatile time. And we were undercapitalized, so we were looking for other products.”
That’s when the company transitioned a good chunk of its marketing and manufacturing capabilities from agriculture products to turf products. This grew the Grasshopper brand to a worldwide leader in grounds maintenance equipment.
That adaptability has set Moridge up for international success. Its products are now sold in 54 countries, and even the White House has been a repeat customer for 17 years.
The Guyers will tell you one of their biggest secrets to success has been the family atmosphere. Moridge is now onto its third generation of Guyers.
“I grew up coming into this office,” said Trent Guyer, who is vice president of marketing and Stan Guyer’s nephew. “My grandfather was retired, but was coming in and still doing the mail and making the rounds and so it was really neat to bridge that from my perspective and to hear his stories firsthand. I try to recount his stories to my kids so they appreciate the hardships we had.”
More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has been a disrupter to many industries.
Deemed an essential business, Grasshopper was able to continue working during the shut down, and while sales dipped, business was better than anticipated.
“I think there are people that are staying home and they want to mow their grass and so they want to do it better,” Stan Guyer said.
But the more difficult challenge has been on the workforce side.
“We’ve had a lot of people on quarantine because of potential exposure and it made scheduling production difficult because we had to be flexible,” Stan Guyer said. “We never knew how many people we’d have. We’re very fortunate that we have not had any positive cases. But it’s very challenging.”
Source: Shelby Reynolds, The Wichita Business Journal