Dahl Shutters Company, Sells Its Parts
     

El PASO, Texas
The amateur radio and professional broadcast pieces of the Peter W. Dahl Company will soon have new life with another amateur radio component supplier, Harbach Electronics.

Dahl said he is optimistic about the experience his customers will have with Harbach.

It’s been a long road for Dahl, which occupied an exclusive niche supplying custom wound transformers and power chokes for broadcast transmitters for more than 35 years. Now it has closed shop.

As reported in the Dec. 12, 2007 issue, Peter Dahl is suffering from advanced Parkinson’s disease; that forced his decision to shutter the business.

“We still have the Web page up, and some unsold inventory, but other than that,” he said in early March, “we have shut it down.” When he failed to get offers for the company as a whole, he was obliged to sell it off in two pieces, the building and land going to one buyer, the broadcast and ham parts and intellectual property to another.

The company’s 17,000-square-foot building and several acres of land were sold to an El Paso business just after the first of the year; Dahl was scheduled to vacate the property and turn it over to the purchasers in March.

Harbach Electronics

All of the intellectual property, including blueprints, designs and CAD workstations, were sold separately to Jeffery Weinberg, who owns Harbach Electronics. The Polk, Ohio-based Harbach specializes in ham radio upgrade kits and parts. Neither Dahl nor Weinberg would disclose the price.

Weinberg noted on his Web site in March that a computer crash caused a loss of data, forcing him to process his orders manually. He expected to have the issues resolved by the end of March, in time for the June re-launch of the Dahl operation to begin servicing Dahl’s customer base.

Weinberg has been a ham for more than 10 years. He purchased Harbach Electronics when the previous owner died.

Of his plans for the Dahl addition to his business, Weinberg said he plans to add the Dahl product line to his offerings by June, once he has formalized a manufacturing deal with Mad Cap LLC in Canton, Mass., “for the actual winding and construction of the transformers built to Peter’s original specifications.”

“I lost the real estate to another buyer,” he added, “but got all of the IP, even the rights to the company name, and that is the real value,” Weinberg said.

He will focus on the professional broadcast and amateur radio markets, and will market Dahl products under the Peter W. Dahl name. “Peter did some military and government work, but we are not going to pursue that work. I’ve got a lot of experience providing amateur radio parts and Mad Cap already builds large broadcast power supplies, so I’m going to stick with those two things.”

Dahl, meanwhile, said even considering the sale of the real estate and the IP, he will absorb a serious shortfall.

“We are looking at a loss this year of around $200,000, mostly due to missed orders and unsold inventory, and we still have to pay a number of vendors.” Underscoring the dissolution of the company’s Texas operations under Dahl, its eight employees have been let go; except for the efforts to sell remaining parts stock via the Web site (www.pwdahl.com), the company is no longer doing business, he said.

Filament transformers

Dahl has been a licensed ham radio operator, K0BIT, since 1955, currently holding an Extra Class license; he’s been designing specialty transformers and reactors for more than 40 years.

The Peter W. Dahl Co. originated as a sole proprietorship in Minneapolis in 1964 before Dahl graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering in 1966.

“I started this business almost by accident,” Dahl said. “Back when I got my ham license, I had some 4-1000 tubes and couldn’t find the right filament transformer to go with them. Rather than throw them out, I decided to wind a transformer myself.

“Word got around and pretty soon, I was winding transformers for other hams. From that, I started making transformers for broadcast transmitters.”

In 1966, he moved the company to El Paso and ran the business out of his garage before moving it to another location and reorganizing it as a corporation in 1977.

Dahl and his wife bought the land and the building where the company has been located in 1985.

When told that this writer was an occasional customer and had been impressed with the speed with which his company could rewind and turn around a burned-out transformer to get a broadcaster back on the air, Dahl lamented that in the end, delivery had become a problem.

“It (the Parkinson’s) got so bad, that we were running very late on some orders.”

He continued, “It is a tough thing to be the heart and soul of the company, since when you stop, the entire company stops.” Given the delivery problems caused by his health issues, Dahl said, he finally decided to try to sell, and he is optimistic that selling the designs to Weinberg will work to his customers’ advantage.

“Jeffery is a ham — W8CQ — just like me,” he said, “and Harbach already supplies components for amateur equipment, so I think this will be a good fit.”

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