Hartman Brothers Finds A Need And Fills It

Colorado distributor celebrates 110-year entrepreneurial spirit.

The plant in Montrose fills industrial gas mixes, NF (medical) grade N2, compressed air, argon, USP oxygen, industrial O2, food grade CO2 and industrial CO2.

In 1904, Cy Young of the Boston Americans threw the first perfect game in the modern era of baseball and Henry Ford broke the record for speed with a new automobile capable of traveling 91.37 mph. 1904 was also the year that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began work on the Panama Canal, and the year that the first subway in New York City opened. And in 1904, the first ice cream cone was introduced at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri.

Against this backdrop of exciting innovations, 1904 was the year that two brothers, Joe and Sid Hartman, opened Hartman Brothers in Montrose, Colorado.

The two brothers learned the importance of innovation and a will to succeed from their parents, who established one of the country’s first health resorts, the Hartman Sanitarium in 1886. Joe and Sid worked the family’s 10-acre farm to provide food for their parents’ patients. Out of necessity, they learned to create solutions to the obstacles they encountered. Whether it was tweaking a gasoline-engine pump to irrigate their farm during a hot, dry summer or hiring themselves out as carpenters, they realized they had a knack for building solutions. Eventually a local repair shop owner offered the two boys his business for the price of $1,000, and a family dynasty was born.

Over 2,500 medical cylinders of various sizes are filled per month.

The Birth of a Tradition
On July 14, 1904, Joe and Sid Hartman opened Hartman Brothers for the purpose of repairing and rebuilding tools and equipment, with an eye toward new opportunities. New opportunities were just around the corner. When the first automobiles began traveling local roads, they opened a repair garage, added a gas tank and became the first Goodyear Tire dealership west of the Mississippi. In 1908, Hartman Brothers became the Ford Motor Company’s first dealer on the western slope of Colorado. Eventually, they added other dealerships, selling and servicing automobiles throughout the region.

In 1921, told it was impossible for two drivers to transport four vehicles from the Dodge factory in Detroit, 1600 miles away, the two brothers mounted two cars onto two trucks and introduced the first auto transport drive-away from Detroit. These firsts were just the means to get business done, platforms to develop solutions to meet customers’ needs and are a tradition that continues to be a central part of the company’s philosophy today.

The second generation, Sid’s son Harold and Joe’s son Clifford, joined the company in 1952. A few years later, Harold became the sole owner of the company, and in the 1970s, management was passed to his sons, Thomas and Carlton (Coky). Today, Hartman Brothers is managed by the fourth generation: Kirk Hartman, son of Thomas, and Sid and Jay, sons of Coky.

Tom Hartman (left) and Montrose Store Manager Dave Fowler

For 110 years, the Hartman family has been devoted to meeting the needs of the local community. In the former auto dealership and repair buildings, the company now sells medical, industrial and specialty gases, along with welding equipment and medical supplies. Kirk Hartman describes his family: “We’ve always been eclectic. We find needs and niches and figure out solutions.” He’s not kidding.

Medical Division
Serving the medical needs of the community goes way back to the 1880s when Sid and Joe Hartman’s parents arrived in Montrose and opened a health resort based on hygienic principles that included pure food and air, rest, electric massage and good nursing. The Hartman Sanitarium also served as the area’s hospital.

Many years later, when Hartman Brothers began selling gases, cylinder oxygen for homebound patients and nursing home residents was their main product. With the invention of the home oxygen concentrator in the 1980s, Hartman Brothers established a relationship with a health care provider and began on their behalf to provide delivery, set up and maintenance of medical oxygen equipment in the patient’s home. After a large national firm acquired that local health care company, Hartman Brothers had to make a decision. Acting on their long-established practice of innovation and the pursuit of new opportunities, Hartman Brothers quickly acquired a Medicare provider number for billing and hired the respiratory therapists needed to meet the needs of their customers. Their customers now were in a position to choose whether a large, national chain or their current local, independent distributor would provide them with oxygen and related services. Over 75 percent of the customers chose to remain with the local company that had met their needs for more than half a century.

(from right) Cousins Kirk Hartman, president, Sid Hartman, vice president, and Jay Hartman, secretary, are fourth generation. Kirk Hartman directs the welding side of Hartman Brothers.

Kirk Hartman describes medical gases and medical equipment as the cornerstone of the company. He says, “Between taking care of the medical gas needs, our bulk gases plant, and the invention of the home oxygen concentrator, we were in on the ground floor and our business just took off.” Thirty-three percent of Hartman Brothers’ medical gas business is the supply of gases to the company’s Medical Gas Division.

Today the company provides medical gas and services as well as a full line of medical rehab equipment, including high-end, sip and puff style, customized powered mobility vehicles. The company has continued to evolve with the development of a specialty pharmacy that provides respiratory medicines, homebound IV therapies and custom prescription compounding.

Hartman Brothers employs a variety of experts, including credentialed respiratory therapists, pharmacists, certified technicians, assistive technology professionals and trained specialists to assist with insurance coverage and provide prompt billing services.

Industrial Division
Hartman Brothers is the largest independent welding and gas distributor in the region. Most of the industrial, medical and specialty gases are produced at the company’s fill plant in Montrose. In addition to a range of welding equipment and supplies, hydrostatic cylinder testing, requalification and reconditioning are offered.

Ray Carrell, general manager of Hartman’s Industrial Division, has been in the gas business since 1974, and knows the critical importance of regulatory compliance. He says, “It’s vital to keep up with change notifications, regulations, keeping the i’s dotted and the t’s crossed.” Training in the safe handling, use and storage of compressed gas cylinders, as well as CGMP requirements, takes place regularly. Carrell uses GAWDA’s phone training seminars to help stay on top of regulatory changes.

Hartman Brothers store in Montrose, Colorado.

The company’s footprint lies within an 80-mile radius throughout a very rural and mountainous region. To meet this challenge, relationships were established with five dealers, including various auto parts stores, farm implement stores and an auto repair facility, to distribute Hartman Brothers gases. “It’s not economical for us to go to some of these areas several times a month,” Kirk Hartman explains, “so we deliver cylinders to our dealers, and we carry the accounts. They swap the cylinders and charge for the gas.”

Because of the size of Hartman’s territory, it is no easy task to track cylinders. Ray Carrell says that 80 percent of the customers in these areas never come to the store. “Marketing to these accounts in a more efficient way is crucial.” The company recently purchased new software and will be barcoding cylinders. An online interface will enable customers to monitor their own activity.

Oxygen, argon, nitrogen and carbon dioxide bulk tanks

Still another example of innovation is a partnership established with Delta-Montrose Technical College to provide welding classes and training. Begun seven years ago, Arc, MIG and TIG welding classes are held at Hartman Brothers during day, evening and weekend sessions. Classes include 36 hours of training with dedicated welding equipment. Three lecture classes—Blueprint Reading I & II and Math for Welders—take place on the college’s campus.

Many of the welding students work for customers of Hartman Brothers, or are new to the industry and hoping to find a job. Kirk Hartman acknowledges the ROI of helping local students learn the trade. Finding a need and filling it is a Hartman Brothers trait.

The Tradition Continues
When you call Hartman Brothers, you don’t get an automated menu selection on the phone; you deal with real people, friendly and familiar employees. Since its founding in 1904, the company’s primary mission has remained the same—to serve friends and neighbors, fairly and efficiently, with respect and confidentiality. “We know almost all of our customers by their first names,” says Kirk Hartman. “It’s a Hartman Brothers tradition.”

In addition to palletized systems for cylinder handling and delivery, bulk tanks are filled on site for customers.

Hartman Brothers’ commitment to innovation and to taking advantage of new opportunities is not stopping with the current generation of management. In the near future, the company is committed to increasing market share and will continue to add product offerings and expand its geographical footprint.

This mission has been accomplished over and over during the course of the last 110 years. And it is the continuing mission that is taking Hartman Brothers through its second century. That eclectic entrepreneurial spirit is in the genes of Kirk, Sid and Jay Hartman. They have the skill and energy of new entrepreneurs who know how to keep their experienced, accomplished business young at heart – growing and diversifying and doing whatever it takes to succeed at creating innovative solutions to meet the needs of their customers and community.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association