By Jim Knowles • San Leandro Times
A Mississippi blues musician makes his guitar twang by sliding a metal tube lightly over the strings.
A jet airliner reduces vibration with Teflon rings around the lines that run through the wing.
A machine with parts made to within .0005 of an inch makes microchips for computers.
All of those little devices are made in San Leandro by M.A.R.s Engineering on Montague Street. The manufacturing company was founded in 1964 by Manny Ambrosio who recently held a 50th anniversary dinner for his employees.
If you think manufacturing is history around here, take a look at M.A.R.s.
Nothing has kept M.A.R.s down. Not the economy, the shift of manufacturing to China, or even a terrible fire in 2007 that gutted the entire shop. M.A.R.s is now bigger than ever before.
They had 30 employees before the fire, now they have over 50. They lost customers after the fire, now their customers are back.
“It’s all due to our employees,” says Ambrosio. “We wouldn’t be here without the employees. Everybody, even somebody sweeping the floor, keeping things clean so you can find parts when you’re looking for them.”
High tech gets all the attention these days, but companies like M.A.R.s are the foundation it’s all built on.
After the fire, several of the companies that are M.A.R.s customers switched to manufacturers in China.
“Now they’re back. Our customers tell us it’s our quality,” said Manny’s son, Manny Ambrosio, Jr. who runs the company his dad founded. “We stand by our word.”
Their customers tell them that they had to reject a lot of parts made overseas, Ambrosio said. It was hard to get through to anybody to have the mistakes corrected. So the customers came back to M.A.R.s Engineering.
M.A.R.s isn’t named after the planet. It stands for Manny & Reine’s, named after Manny and his late wife. Ambrosio Sr. started the company on Peralta Street in San Leandro and moved to Montague in 1968 with five Brown & Sharpe screw machines – now they have 30 of those machines, plus 20 Hardinge high speed lathes, and several computerized machines.
These are the rock-solid machines that look like it would take a crane to lift. With these machines M.A.R.s makes precision parts out of stainless steel, aluminum, brass or copper.
The business bounced back after the fire due to the fire department, Ambrosio said. The fire department was able to save the office – all the paperwork – and that really made a difference.
Of course, there was still red tape to cut through to get the shop running again. They rebuilt the shop in 5 months, but it took 8 or 9 months to get through what they call “the permit process,” which was frustrating when you’re all ready to go, but that was the only problem, he said.
But M.A.R.s was never closed after the fire, because they rented space in nearby buildings and kept it going. Their customers include many Silicon Valley companies, as well as food processing companies and air conditioning companies right around here. Having a manufacturer close by makes a difference.
Manufacturing isn’t just making things, Ambrosio said. It’s being able to communicate with your customers, understanding what they want.
“You have to be able to talk to your customers,” Ambrosio said.