Ariens Co. unveils a sculpture and garden to celebrate 50 years of the Sno-Thro, and the life of its creator.
A sculpture and garden honoring the late Steve "Mando" Ariens was dedicated recently by Ariens Co. exectutives and both current and retired employees. The 9-foot-tall metal sculpture is entitled "Man and Machine."
It was a sticky situation with dealers that pushed Steve “Mando” Ariens to develop a snow-thrower at Ariens Co., and now there’s a permanent space dedicated to the Ariens Sno-Thro and its footprint in the outdoor power equipment industry.
More than 150 people gathered at the Ariens Co. Museum in Brillion, Wis., recently to dedicate a sculpture and garden honoring the late Mando Ariens, who dreamt and spearheaded the development of the Sno-Thro and many other products.
The Ariens family and employees supervised the transformation of a tired-looking grassy area in front of the museum into Steve “Mando” Ariens Gardens. The garden includes a 9-foot-tall centerpiece metal sculpture titled “Man and Machine” that depicts a man pushing a 1960 model Sno-Thro.
Steve "Mando" Ariens pictured atop a snow thrower in 1968. (Photo courtesy of Ariens Co.)
“My grandfather Mando was a man of his time,” Dan Ariens said to the crowd surrounding the statue during the dedication ceremony.
“He was a mechanical engineer and a consummate dreamer. He was a strong believer that the right machine could help make the world a better place for the ‘modern man’ who used it. From the 1920s on, he left a great legacy of many machines but the one that has been most enduring is the Ariens 2-stage Sno-Thro.
“We believe the sculpture epitomizes both his philosophy on how to do business and his passion for the product.”
The sculpture was created by metal artist Paul Kaufmann of Manitowoc, Wis., and the park-like gardens were designed and installed by David J. Frank Landscape Contracting of Germantown, Wis. The sculpture is mainly composed of copper and stainless steel, along with metal wires and other scrap.
Mike Ariens (left), chairman of the board for Ariens Co., and Willard Tschantz, retired vice president of engineering, share a laugh during the dedication ceremony.
There’s a story behind the Sno-Thro and how it was conceived and built, says Willard Tschantz, retired vice president of engineering.
According to Tschantz, distributors complained in the fall of 1959 that Ariens dealers weren’t ordering machines in the numbers they expected. Executives discovered that dealers selling Snow Bird-brand snow throwers were being told by the manufacturer that they also had to buy a certain number of Earth Bird tillers or they wouldn’t be able to get the snow-throwers.
“That didn’t sit very well with Steve,” Tschantz said. “Around December, he said ‘That’s that. We need a snow blower. I want you to design it.’ ”
Distributors said 3 models of snow-throwers were selling good at the time: the Snow Bird, REO and Bros brands. Tschantz and others took the 3 machines out to a Wisconsin lake and threw snow with all of them.
The success of the Snow Bird (left), manufactured by an Illinois company, pushed Ariens Co. to design, test, produce and distribute the Sno-Thro in less than a year's time. More than 2 million Sno-Thros have been sold world wide since 1960.
After watching the machines perform, Steve Ariens told Tschantz he wanted a 2-stage machine with 2 speeds, a reverse gear and a Tecumseh engine, “and design the machine so we can put attachments on the front. Nobody else had that,” Tschantz recalled.
In a couple of months, Tschantz and his colleagues took a prototype machine outdoors, fired it up and it promptly threw snow more than 30 feet, landing on the nearby railroad tracks.
“Steve says, ‘No, no, no! That’s too far!’ We’re going to sell these in the city, you can’t blow snow that far,” Tschantz recalled. He was also surprised when Steve ordered him to get the product into production by July 1960, a feat that was achieved. “I think that’s pretty good when you start in 7 months, and you go from nothing on paper to production,” Tschantz said.
According to Ariens Co., its Sno-Thro machines are the No. 1- selling brand of snow throwers around the world. In addition to U.S. distribution, Ariens units are sold in Canada, Scandinavia and throughout the Alpine regions of Europe. The company has produced more than 2.6 million Sno-Thro machines in 50 years.
“The Sno-Thro is the heart of the Ariens business,” Dan Ariens said. “We hear from many of our customers who pass them down from one generation to the next, and we take pride in that fact. When our engineers design, they design for durability.”
One of the Ariens Co. founders, Mando Ariens joined the company as vice president, general manager and chief engineer in 1933 and retired as president in 1969. While he held the reins, Ariens Co. launched many new products and Mando became known as an outspoken advocate of the growing outdoor power equipment industry.
After the dedication, the memories of a grandfather seemed to come flooding back for Dan Ariens. In an interview with Rural Lifestyle Dealer, Dan said Mando was always working on or fixing something, and he couldn’t sit still.
“I remember that even when I was little coming out here as 12 or 13 years old, he was always tinkering with machinery, trying to figure out the next thing you could do. He was always looking for a machine that would eliminate manual work," Dan said.
“And I still hear his name around the industry. He’s left quite a legacy, and I still hear people talking about, ‘Yeah, I knew your grandfather when …’ To have that still going on after he died in 1974 is quite a tribute.”