Watts Equipment celebrated 50 years in the forklift business in October.

The firm staged a gala at their location on Comconex Road just east of Manteca off East Highway 120, and invited all of their 1,200 customers to the event.

Chief Executive Officer Shirley Perreira noted that since Watts got its start five decades ago there has been some “scary” times that caused the management team to be innovative. She credited their success to a strong working relationship with Toyota Forklift and Crown Forklift.

Watts founder Virgil Watts left the Marine Corps in 1948 with a vision to start his own business. It took him seven years to formulate his plan with one of his earliest challenges centered on having no customers and only five employees. He described his status as a week-to-week adventure.

Start-up companies are sometimes fortunate enough to enjoy early wins, successes and victories and such was the case with Watts. One such victory came as Watts made one of his first big deals when California Cooler demonstrated confidence in him and in the product. That exchange gave his firm confidence to serve other larger customers.

Perreira spoke of a more recent win that spoke volumes to the core values that Watts held as he grew the company over the years.

“One of the high points of Watts Equipment Company’s history that made Virgil proud was when a 20-year account was instructed by their corporate office that they would now have to start using a national account and not their local one. It was hard to watch that happen. Even though they could no longer purchase from us or have us service their equipment, we could not abandon them,” she said. “They were family.”

Two years later Watts was awarded the firm’s national account, extending their forklift business throughout North America and their relationship continued to grow even stronger.

“We will be going onto close to 30 years now,” she said of that relationship.

Virgil Watts passed away in November of 2010. He would still go into his office well into his 90s. It was mentioned by many that he would have a twinkle in his eye when hearing stories about the happenings in his company.

He was often heard to say, “Look how far this industry has come” yet everyone believes that much of their success comes from Virgil being a forward thinker.

“I believe the secret to getting this far in business today is staying true to Virgil’s values when he created the company,” Perreira said. “We will continue to treat our customers like family and remember that success will be reached when your customers are successful.”