Peerless was founded in 1917 when Joseph B. Bambenek, a 27-year-old wholesale fruit salesman, purchased the rights and interests in the “diamond link” chain patent from its inventor and incorporated the Peerless Chain Company. Joseph was joined in this venture by his brothers Dominic (Dick) and Al.
The three Bambenek’s then selected Winona, Minnesota as the location for this new business. The Company’s first headquarters consisted of a one-room office and production took place in a former butcher shop, where tire chains were made by hand.
Shortly after the Company was incorporated, Joe and Al entered the military to serve their country during World War I. When they returned from military duty, the Peerless work force doubled to four, including John B. Bambenek, father of Joe, Dick, and Al. The first customers of the Bambeneks were garage owners in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the Dakotas. Peerless dealt strictly in automotive (tire) chains for cars, trucks, and other vehicles in these formative years.
Primarily through Dick’s efforts in the sale of stock, the Company was able to purchase its first two machines in 1920–an automatic diamond link former and an automatic four-slide former to make cross chain hooks for tire chains.
New production equipment led to expansion and the Company rented the back half of the former Park Brewery Bottling Works. This would become the base of Peerless operations for the next 50 years. It eventually became known as Building No. 1, the first of the nine added between then and 1958.
In 1939 Peerless began the manufacture and sale of industrial chain. World War II further accelerated the growth trend, as Peerless was awarded a major contract for our new Kwik-On tire chain for use on combat vehicles. Supplying the Army with these chains and the Navy with deck lashing chain for landing craft kept Peerless operating around the clock. One of the highlights in our company’s history was receiving the War Department’s “E” Award for exceptional contribution to the war effort.
In 1952 Peerless began manufacture of wire form products. Hardware chain soon followed and, in the 1960’s, tire chains for snow blowers and garden tractors became another important product group. In 1978 Peerless entered the highly competitive sling (overhead lifting) chain market. Many other product and market development gains have been made since then.
Peerless experienced considerable growth in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s under the leadership of a second generation of senior executives led by President Jim Jeresek, Sales Vice President Jim Carroll, and Manufacturing Vice President Jim Frankard. Peerless’ sales gains were paralleled by building expansion. In 1969 realization of a long-time dream for the Bambeneks occurred with completion of a modern 200,000 square foot office/factory complex in the Industrial Park. In 1974 a new 25,000 square foot addition was completed, housing the Company’s highly sophisticated automatic storage and retrieval system warehouse. Four years later two new storage aisles were added. Continuing growth resulted in a major 90,000 square foot building addition completed early in 1981.