1983 - Our Story Begins
What is known today as La Crosse Technology - A Family of Brands, has had quite the evolution over the years. So we invite you to join us over the course of the next few months, as we tell that story through the eyes of our founder, and current president, Allan McCormick. His likability, fearlessness and entrepreneurship, coupled with his passion for helping others, has made the company what it is today.
Starting in 1983, when stationed overseas serving in the US Army as a Military Police K9 handler, Allan had a request from his Aunt Kathy to find her a German grandfather clock. Thus beginning his journey into the world of time keeping devices and eventually, weather technology.
That simple request for a grandfather clock set the wheels in motion. Before long, Allan was importing clocks to the west coast, where he would load them into his vehicle and drive back cross-country to Minnesota, selling the clocks along the way. The sale of the clocks made enough income to pay for the trip out and back with enough left over to do it all again. The company truly began with a Dodge van and a vision.
1986 - Living on the Road
As the business grew, the novelty of living out of a van diminished, so it was time to upgrade. Allan purchased a Winnebago Motor-home, pulling his mobile showroom/warehouse behind it, the "Minnie Winnie" became his new home and office. In 1987 Welcome Home magazine took notice and Allan was featured in an article about "Working Winnebago's"
1988 - Dreaming Downtown
1988 - Vision Confirmed
A pre-cursor of what was to come, while attending the police academy in Alexandria, MN in the early 80's and then selling his clocks during the summer, Allan wandered into a local jewelry store looking for a main spring to repair a clock. What he found was a part-time job and confirmation of his vision. The knowledge learned while working at Diekman's Jewelry contributed to Allan's success selling clocks. In 1988, busy running a business and sales, he hired Horologist. Greg Townsend to provide an invaluable service. It's a collaboration that still exists today and we're happy to say Greg is still part of our La Crosse family.
1991 - The "Big Dig"
As the business grew, it became apparent that a warehouse was needed, so the decision was made to dig out the basement of La Crosse Clock Co. location. Ever the entrepreneur, Allan recruited college kids to haul the dirt using 5 gallon pails. Luckily there were plenty of recruits available between the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, Western Technical College and Viterbo.
The "Bucket Brigade" affectionately referred to the project as the "Big Dig" named after the monstrous project underway in Boston, MA at the time. Always an adventure - one night while sandblasting the ceiling to get it clean, there was so much dust and debris flowing out of the building that the La Crosse Fire Department showed up responding to a fire call, full gear and hoses out! But in the end by digging down as far as they could, and then pouring cement, they created their own, much needed, usable space.
"Big Dig" image from GlobeFile/1999
1993 - River City Clock Company
1994 - Part 1 - E.Howard & CO
Allan's strong belief in quality and tradition made the acquisition of Boston's own E. Howard & Co. and easy decision. Here he focused primarily on the clock side of the business. Established in 1842, E. Howard & Co. is still featured in the Smithsonian and the National Museum of American History as it is considered to be the oldest clock manufacturer in America.
1994 - Part 2 - Creative Advertising
1994 was a busy year for La Crosse Clock Co. In addition to the purchase of E. Howard & Co., Allan also founded Infinity Instruments with Janusz Erlichman, purchased a former roller skating rink in La Crescent, MN - turning the building into offices and warehouse space. He was also busy being featured in numerous publications with his “grass roots” form of advertising-his self manned hot air balloon.
1995 - The Heartbeat of the Home
"A clock adds an aura to a home. One woman told me it became the heartbeat of her home." -Allan
1996 - Part 1 - Hourglasses on the rise
The late nineties played host to one of the most controversial trials in US history, the one involving NFL superstar: OJ Simpson. This month actually marks the 22nd anniversary of the televised trial, which featured Judge Ito’s famous hourglass timepiece, a timepiece that inspired Allan to create one of his own. Produced using wood bases from a US factory and glass and sand imported from England, the Hourglass Clock was a challenge to keep in stock.
1996 - Part 2 - The Changing Times
This is the year that changed time keeping in the American marketplace with the introduction of Radio Controlled time (atomic time). On the market for years in Europe, Allan became the official US selling agent for Radio Controlled time pieces and introduced WWVB to America. Under La Crosse McCormick, the first atomic wristwatch from Wittnauer by Junghans was sold, the watch was a limited to run of 1,000 pieces, made of solid titanium, and retailed at $999.95. This year also saw the start of the La Crosse Clock Co. factory, which produced numerous clock designs with all of the wood casings manufactured by John Pitts.
1999 - The birth of la crosse technology
In 1999 La Crosse Technology was born when Allan partnered with Rolf Haupt and Manfred Wu utilizing the factory in the US to manufacture the wood casings to house the atomic clock movements.
2000 - Expansion
With an expanding inventory, Allan purchased a new warehouse in Spring Grove, MN. Included in that growing inventory was our first La Crosse Technology branded Wireless Forecast Station, the WS-7054, a model that still exists in a newer form today. In the ever changing world of technology and new advancements in consumer weather consumption we continue to develop new items to meet the customer demand, this will be evident in the months to come.
2001 - A Trademark Look is Born
While on a sales call at Frontgate, a suggestion was made to create a digital wall clock with wood side panels. Already doing wood manufacturing in the US for grandfather clocks, Allan pursued this stylistic look creating numerous renditions of what would become a trademarked top seller in digital wall clocks for La Crosse Technology. The local manufacturing of the wood side panels was what set these clocks apart, and it remained this way for quite some time before our factories overseas were able to replicate a similar look and quality.
In addition to the birth of a trademarked look, this year La Crosse Technology begin working as a distributor for Equity, a clock wholesaler that sold SkyScan alarm clocks and wall clocks, forging a relationship that has evolved over the years and still exists today.
2002 - 1 million sold!
2002 – Was the year in which La Crosse Technology surpassed 1 MILLION Digital Atomic Wall Clocks sold! An incredible milestone to be sure, but that didn’t stop us from raising the bar in years to come.
2004 - Ends and Beginnings
After 10+ years partnering with River City Cuckoo Clock Allan’s share of the company went back to Jeff Marden allowing his efforts to focus on La Crosse Technology and a new adventure. La Crosse Technology entered into a licensing arrangement with The Weather Channel to produce weather stations, digital atomic clocks, thermometers, and rain gauges branded with The Weather Channel logo. To no ones’ surprise, these products began appearing on retail shelves everywhere. “The tremendous name recognition and trust factor of The Weather Channel adds considerable appeal to our high-performance line of weather preparedness devices. Expansion of these branded products into national retailers will dramatically increase their exposure to consumers” – Allan. And this proved to be true, with Best Buy,Bass Pro Shops, and the May Department Stores among the biggest retails to jump on board, The Weather Channel branded products were a huge success.
2006 - A Major Move
La Crosse Technology officially moved into its current location here on the South side of La Crosse, WI. This was a large but necessary undertaking, as it brought the executive offices, customer support, sales, graphics, warehousing, and research & development all under one roof. A few years later we were able to move our downtown retail business, La Crosse Clock Co. to this location as well, bringing all our US operations together.
2008 - A Bump in the Road
2008 saw the launch of Weather Direct, the world's first Internet-powered personal weather system. This turned out to be our first major failure, and led to a technically bankrupt balance sheet for the company. According to Allan, "We were never actually told that we were bankrupt, so we just kept going." Employees took pay cuts and suppliers agreed to extend terms to keep the dream alive and the company afloat. In retrospect, the product was ahead of its time. Smartphones and mobile devices were not what they are today, so the concept of information at the touch of one's fingertips was not on the forefront of consumers' minds.
2009 - A Joint Venture begins
2009 was the year we began our joint venture with Equity Industries Corp., a subsidiary of Chiaphua based in Hong Kong and a company that has roots in clock manufacturing dating back all the way to the 1960s. It was in this year that La Crosse Technology shifted from being just a distributor of their products, to a partner. The brand was henceforth known as Equity by La Crosse.
2010 - A Move and the NIST
Equity’s warehousing moved from California to its current location here in La Crosse, Wisconsin. We also began working with the National Institute of Standards and Technology during this year, who was able set up a signal testing chamber right on our company campus, all in an effort to help develop our UltrAtomic clock. La Crosse Technology is still the only privately owned company in the US to have access to this type of government official equipment.
2013 - La Crosse Alerts is launched
We launched our monitoring system La Crosse Alerts which allowed the consumer to stay up-to-date on their own micro-environment through the use of the internet and later the La Crosse Alerts Mobile App. The year also saw a cold snap, similar to what many states are experiencing today, La Crosse Technology was invited to attend the NFL Monday night football game on December 9 when the Dallas Cowboys took on the Chicago Bears in Chicago, IL. We provided a professional weather system to the NFL to provide up to the minute field conditions to the announcers during the game.
2015 - A Rebirth of a Brand
The acquisition of The Geneva Clock Co’s decorative clock inventory brought the company and Allan back to its clock manufacturing roots. Though we had never lost the La Crosse Clock Co. brand, the acquisition of Geneva was certainly viewed as a resurrection of that side of the business. Believe it or not, this merger was hashed out during a 5 minute conversation between Allan and Geneva’s brand manager, Susan Sequin.
2018 - A View into the past brings us to the present
Moving into the future
Well, this brings us up to date, and we’ve truly enjoyed sharing our journey with you over the past few months. But our story definitely doesn’t end here. This week at CES we've officially launched our newest line of innovative Connected Weather Stations, which offer an almost infinite number of monitoring solutions using our new La Crosse View app. For more information about these new stations, please visit our website here: https://www.lacrossetechnology.com/products/monitoring-view or continue to follow us here on Facebook for updates and other company news. Thanks again for being a part of the La Crosse Technology family, we’re glad you’re here.