Norman Drucker Leaves a Lasting Legacy
In the first few months of AIN Plastics blog posts I’ve gotten things rolling by telling you some things about AIN Plastics, primarily about the products we sell, a new service we offer, our TYGON award, and some industry information. But until now, I haven’t talked much about the people of AIN. With the passing of one of AIN Plastics founders, Norman Drucker, it is time to take a look back and pay tribute and respect to a man who was much loved and respected by those he worked with, by his competitors, and by those who knew him personally.
As the newbie at AIN Plastics I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Drucker, so I called upon two people that did, and I thoroughly enjoyed the time listening and learning about one of the men who began AIN Plastics.
Jerry Lane and John Colleluori are two AIN Plastics employees who worked with Norman Drucker over the years and each one calls him both a friend and a mentor. Jerry Lane recalled that even before he worked for Norman, when he was a competitor to AIN, he would always stop in and see Norman when he was in Mt. Vernon, NY, the home of AIN Plastics at the time. “I was always treated like a kid brother, Norman was a mentor even when I was a competitor and he helped me to get distributor lines I never could gotten otherwise. People trusted him.” Even though AIN was highly successful and was expanding into numerous locations, Jerry said Norman once told him he wouldn’t move into Jerry’s town because he didn’t want to hurt him. Norman understood there was success all around and he didn’t need to take from others to grow his own business. Jerry went on to say that Norman said if he ever wanted to work with him in some way to let him know. That time came in 1985 when Jerry decided to make his own company a part of AIN Plastics. He said in February of 1985 they made a deal and sealed it with a handshake, by April of that year it was official and Jerry Lane went to work for Norman and AIN Plastics.
John and Jerry both noted that Norman had a gift for business. It is said he had a photographic memory and he used it often to make sure business stayed on track. John and Jerry both shared some great stories of Norman’s ability to sift through a stack of papers and at any given time relate inventory, financial status and specifics on any branch, all from what he kept in his head.
You might be thinking Norman Drucker went to a large college and had degrees in business. Rather, he was a true success story, the kind you read about in books or see in movies. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He never went to college but instead went right to work, first as an appliance sales person, and then as a taxi driver. From there
Norman Drucker went to work at Almac Plastics and that’s when he really found his niche. Norman learned the plastics business and in a few years he and longtime friend Alex Gabay began AIN Plastics. John Colleluori noted AIN’s first sales of phenolic were done from a station wagon, but it wasn’t long before they were able to settle into a building in Mt. Vernon, New York and from there they grew, and grew, and grew!
When I asked Jerry and John what were some of the things that stood out most about Norman the first thing that came to mind was how honest and compassionate he was. Jerry knew Norman to be a person that didn’t hold grudges. Jerry recalled several times that Norman had a disagreement with someone but later helped them out in a major way, such as finding employment. Jerry said, “He was always there for people.”
When I asked what things he had done that made AIN so successful both men took a long breath and said well…. He was it! He was the driving force for a long time.
Norman was an innovator who began with only an inside sales force. That hadn’t been done in the world of plastic sales before. Jerry noted, “If we weren’t taking calls we were making calls!” John said the philosophy was and still is, everybody sells and he chuckled as he recounted stories of Norman sitting in the center of the bullpen working right alongside with everyone else. John said, “Sure, he had a really nice office, but most of the time he didn’t use it. He was right in there with us making it all happen.”
John noted the catalog business AIN Plastics had was another key in their growth. “We were a one stop shop for plastics. We made it easy for people to get everything they needed from one source.” AIN didn’t do just one catalog either. They developed niche market catalogs, like products for schools, so before the days of google, people could easily find the products they needed fast. AIN was also one of the first to take their information online. Norman knew his customers well and always focused on how to best service them. In 1993, AIN Plastics was appointed E.I. DuPont’s first national distributor of Vespel® PolyImide stock and from there AIN Plastics expanded into specialty grades of nylon, Delrin, PTFE, thermoset laminates and more.
After many years of nonstop work, Norman and his partner Alex decided to sell AIN Plastics to Thyssen Inc. NA (now ThyssenKrupp Materials NA). The sale took place in 1996 and Norman stayed in the company for three months before leaving and settling into full retirement.
A few years back Norman Drucker was recognized by the Plastics industry and another longtime AIN Plastics employee, Vincent LaLima who knew him well wrote an eloquent letter about Norman Drucker’s contributions to the plastics industry for the IAPD. Click here to see his letter in full.
Even though he had not been directly involved in the plastics industry for some years, he remained friends with many of those he had worked with. Norman Drucker was 73 when he passed away after a long battle with cancer in June, 2012. His funeral had standing room only and many more visited to pay their respects to his family and say farewell to a man that helped bring engineering plastics into the modern industry it is today.
So there you have it. A brief story of Norman Drucker and along with it the early history of AIN Plastics. I don’t think you could tell the story of one without telling the story of the other. Although AIN lives on and has grown even larger and better over the years since Mr. Drucker it is clear that it all began with the strong foundation laid by it’s founders. Our hats go off to you Norman Drucker!
ThyssenKrupp Materials NA, AIN Plastics Division
For more information about AIN Plastics please visit our website: ainplastics.com