Telstar Metals Co.
Rick Davis • 417-463-7088
Rick Davis and his wife, Linda, founded Telstar
Metals in 1985 in a hay barn on their dairy farm. Shortly after,
they bought a facility along with another local couple, and the
business was incorporated six months later. Two years later,
Davis sold the dairy business.
Davis said that the dairy business was getting
tough as small dairies were being “squeezed out” by the large
companies. To make ends meet, Davis went to work part time for
a local recycler, but it wasn’t long before he realized he wanted
to go out on his own and he took the knowledge he got from his
part time job to found his own business.
“We take a lot of pride in our customers
that we’ve had for more than 20 years,” Davis said. The first,
Rockwell International, is still a customer. “We are a critical
manufacturer for steel mills and foundries,” he explained. “I’ve
made numerous midnight runs when customers’ projections were
But Davis doesn’t mind those midnight runs.
He said that when he’s making a special trip to make sure his
customer’s plant can keep operating, “it makes it feel like you’ve
accomplished something.” Of all the things he does, he enjoys
his interactions with his customers the most. “I go to some pretty
rough places to buy scrap, and some very nice ones.”
The critical product that Telstar manufactures
and that Davis sometimes delivers on those emergency runs is
aluminum deox. Davis explained that deox “is used to make steel
stronger” and results in higher-grade steel. The deox is also
used in making stainless steel, and in used for some very specific
products, like the railroad wheels that one customer manufactures.
While he doesn’t know where all of his material
winds up as an end-product, Davis said that he’s proud to have
some of his material in the stainless steel benches that are
part of the 9-11 memorial at the Pentagon.
To make sure his material is the highest
grade possible, each batch is analyzed, and that analysis is
sent out with each shipment. “Our product is 93 percent minimum,”
Davis said, “and up to 99 percent aluminum.” To get that sort
of result “we have to know what we’re putting in our furnaces.”
He buys his material from several recyclers,
as well as some fabricating plants in a four-state area near
his Marionville, Missouri plant. He buys mostly extrusions, sheet,
and car and truck wheels.
Sales travel a lot farther, including one
customer in Winnipeg, Canada. However, freight costs have to
be considered, so most of his material comes from the Midwest.
Sales range from 500-10,000 lbs. per order, and the material
he sells ranges from 1/4 and 5 lb. stars to 30 lb. ingots.
Davis said that the star shape has more surface
area which allows the material to melt faster, but the smallest
stars can be expensive since they’re more labor-intensive to
make. He described the 5 lb. stars as looking like a bundt cake.
He also makes 5 lb. notch bars. “We take a product that is virtually
useless and change it to a product that is critical for a steel
mill to operate,” Davis said.
After 26 years in business, Davis knows what
he has to do, but that wasn’t always the case. “We learned a
lot by making mistakes,” he said. “We tried to get larger in
the mid-late 90’s,” but that turned out to be a bad business
move. In 2004, he bought out his partners, downsized the operation,
and moved the business closer to home.
Right now, his plant operates two 12-hour
shifts, 4 days a week, but he wouldn’t mind seeing business increase
so he could run a 24/7 operation. The good news is that “business
has turned around since the first of the year. All of our customers
are picking up.”
It hasn’t always been that good, and he has
dealt with customers who have gone through bankruptcies “but
now it’s paying off” with customer loyalty. He said that “starting
your own business from scratch is difficult and challenging.
Some of it you don’t know about until you get into it.”
He found out one very important thing when
his son started working for him in 2004. “I didn’t realize that
he’d been wanting to work with me for years,” Davis said. “And
he’s really an asset. He’s going to take care of the company
just like I did. He has a good relationship with all our customers.”