Joe worked as a quality engineer in an aerospace company before starting his business, but he soon knew it wasn’t for him. “I had started my own carpentry business after high school,” Joe says, “and was doing carpentry work all over the country, but I was starting to think about settling down,” Joe says. The inspiration for All Crate was born when the shipping company used by his father’s employer was unable to provide quality crates.
Joe launched the business in the garage of his parents’ home, an ideal location thanks to Windsor’s proximity to major highways, Bradley International Airport and the Connecticut River. Joe purchased his current building in 1998, expanded that building twice, and purchased additional property in 2016. All Crate now occupies more than 32,000 SF of office, warehouse and production space and employs about 20 people. Recently, Joe has been taking steps to make the company more environmentally conscious by adding a large solar panel system and trying to recycle as much material as possible.
Joe likes that every day is different, with a wide variety of items to crate. “I see so many things, from military weapons systems to all kinds of aerospace, medical and automotive products,” Joe says. “It’s always something different.” Among the most interesting shipments that he crated was part of a power plant, which was “so big that they had to put it on a barge in the Connecticut River and ship it around the southern tip of South America.”
Among the challenges that Joe faces is finding younger employees; most of his workers are in their 50s and 60s. He says the job doesn’t require a high skill level, but he’s looking for younger workers who have a good attitude and are willing to do quality work. As Joe says, “the crate goes from point A to point B, and then they throw it away,” so while each crate doesn’t have to be perfect, it must be of good, consistent quality. “The packaging is the first thing your customers see, and if they see a crate that’s crooked or not made right, they’ll wonder if the product inside is like that, too.”
All Crate is a family-oriented company. In 2000, Joe’s father (also Joe Novak) stepped in to help with the financial aspect of the business. “My dad is very good at managing a business and overseeing the books, which lets me go to bed at night without worrying.” Additionally, Joe says there is a possibility of passing the business down to one or more of his four children, now in their teens and twenties.
Membership in the Windsor Chamber of Commerce gives Joe a great way of networking and reaching potential local customers and vendors. “My dad always networked a lot in Windsor,” Joe says. “He was involved in Windsor politics for decades, from serving on the town council to being the longtime chair of the Public Building Commission.”
With his strong roots in Windsor, Joe Novak plans to continue to operate All Crate in town, the place where his business was born and where it has continued to thrive for more than 25 years—sending Windsor-made packing crates from our small town to places all over the globe.
By Aretha Prabawa