By Tom Tigani
Adjusting to the adversity caused by the coronavirus pandemic has given a local entrepreneur the chance to preserve and even expand his business by helping to stop the spread of COVID-19, all while giving back to the community.
Last March, Wyandotte resident Dan Martin, owner of Magnum Tools in Romulus, was distraught over how state of Michigan guidelines were affecting the business he founded 20 years ago. Magnum Tool manufactures scaffolding and distributes tools. He had no idea how to face his employees and explain how they were being laid off because of the coronavirus and its issues.
On his way home one day, Martin stopped at a 7-Eleven in Wyandotte and observed a child coughing and sneezing near the unguarded counter. He realized then that he could utilize his familiarity with manufacturing and dealing with high volumes to develop some of the very first plexiglass sneeze guard barriers brought to market.
He said that just seven hours after that encounter, he was ready to manufacture the sneeze guards by the thousands and purchased several domain names, including www.plexiglasssneezeguards.com.
“Obviously we live in a new world today compared to years past, with face masks, social distancing and the like,” Martin said. “One year ago in early March 2020 we had less understanding of the coronavirus. The definition of essential workers, shortages of toilet paper and mandatory closings of businesses were just rolling out.”
Converting his manufacturing capacity to the sneeze guards and simultaneously continuing to manufacture and distribute tools that later were deemed essential, Martin set up work stations at his facility and throughout the parking lot, including 10-foot by 10-foot pop-up tents and remote stations, to make the plexiglass barriers.
Paid workers and volunteers came from near and far to team up together and manufacture and distribute barriers across the entire country, Martin said. Very shortly afterward, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer advised state businesses during a press briefing to “contact Magnum in Romulus, Michigan“ for sneeze guards and other associated products.
“What an honor it has been and continues to be working with the existing staff and others to try and make a difference fighting this nasty virus,“ Martin said.
In the process he’s added another domain name, magnumsafetyproducts.com, linked to the Magnum Tools website.
“As a result, we ended up shipping so many of these barriers to other states that we had to work to find a way to fill more local demand as businesses were being allowed to reopen.”
To help meet those local needs, Martin bought the former Owl’s Korner boutique at 940 Maple in downtown Wyandotte and stocked the small building with hand sanitizers, face masks and plexiglass barriers so businesses could immediately access products to help them reopen.
“We supplied hundreds of restaurants, insurance agencies, law firms, hair salons and bars and restaurants throughout southeastern Michigan utilizing the storefront,” Martin said.
Meanwhile, in Romulus, his company has been producing thousands of pieces for hospitals, “every single police precinct in downtown Detroit,” state police facilities, and courthouses, among other things.
“Looking through the list of businesses and people purchasing is amazing,” Martin said. “We have now sold to every kind of business and government operation you can imagine, both big and small.
“Yes, money has been involved, but the satisfaction and trying to keep people safe and get people back to work far exceeds any financial gain. It’s incredibly humbling.”
Martin said that while he has been able to maintain existing manufacturing and distribution operations, bring on an entirely different business unit and hire new employees, he’s proud of being in a position to give back through donations to the community.
“We’ve donated to ROTC, food banks, homeless shelters, churches and even school band departments so students can gather together and play musical instruments, yet socially distance,” he said.
“This last year has produced amazing relationships, stories, opportunities and humbling experiences. To date we continue to make these barriers and install them in schools, courthouses, miscellaneous government operations.”
Martin realizes the pandemic won’t last forever, and toward that end he has developed plans to retool the tiny (165 square feet on each of its two floors) historic building for a non-COVID future. Details of those plans won’t be announced for another couple of months, but he believes he’s found a way to make the tiny historic building produce enough revenue to be economically viable.
“It’s just another way to give back to the community,” Martin said.