After three generation of owners, Parker Manufacturing still provides quality metal-working and fabrication services for agricultural communities statewide.
The business, at 2127 Duncan Road in Wenatchee, takes on a wide variety of projects, but many involve constructing irrigation filters for farmers.
“I’ve done it so many times that I couldn’t even explain how to go through it,” Terry Parker, the owner of Parker Manufacturing, said. “But we have different jobs come in here all the time. Right now I’m working on handrails for the college, and next week I could see a motorcycle come in here.”
Despite the manufacturing tag at the end of the name, Parker sees his business differently.
“This place is more of a fabrication shop than a manufacturing shop,” Parker said “We try to take on more technical projects rather than just building handrails.”
Parker Manufacturing began in 1960 where Parker’s grandfather made a name for himself constructing sprayers. Parker’s dad became business partners with his dad until he took it over himself, and the common project was advanced trailers and a sprayer of his own design.
“My grandpa did some designing, but my dad was educated in that stuff. He did the more technical stuff,” Parker said. “He did incredibly well here. They were building specialty trailers that could do some cool things. They had robotic arms to lift things and one trailer that had a scissor lift that could rotate 360 degrees. He built crazy stuff like that, one after another.”
Parker took the business over from his dad four years ago.
“I was born into it. I liked it because you get to produce something out of nothing,” Parker said. “I hate wood, so I wouldn’t work with wood. I just kind of fell into it. Growing up, I would come down to my dad’s shop and spend my time there. I never really thought about it, it just kind of happened.”
The experiences of being around his father and observing his work helped Parker become adroit at his trade, but most of his skill comes from pure experience.
“I learned it myself through trial-and-error. I’ve had people help me, but you really have to teach yourself,” Parker said. “Learning-wise, it’s just a matter of picking up two pieces of steel and welding them together. I started making swords and nunchucks and stuff and it evolved from there.”
Much of his experience comes from the motorcycle shop he had before he closing it down to take on the family business.
“(Motorcycle building) takes a long time, the money’s not very good, I was doing one after another, it just became super repetitive,” Parker said. “ I’ve built two bikes since I’ve been here and that’s kind of enough for me.”
An aspect of running Parker Manufacturing that Parker enjoys over his previous work is the variety of projects that come through his doors..
“There’s way more variety with what I’m working on now,” Parker said. “One day I’m fixing the breaks on someone’s trailer and the next day I’m building something for an apple line. It’s pretty diverse.”
Most of the regular business comes during the spring, where the water is being turned on for farmers, and they begin placing orders for irrigation filters en masse.
“When we’re super busy in the spring we’re doing four orders a week, but each order is for 10 filters,” Parker said. “It takes about two and a half hours to build a little filter, and four hours for the bigger ones. You multiply that time by 40, and that’s a huge time investment.”
It all starts in April, Parker said.
“When April 4 hits, people just start freaking out and the next three months become very busy,” Parker said. “It begins to pick up in February, it gets a little more busy in March, and in April the floodgates just open.”
Although the business can provide some challenges, especially the busy springs, Parker loves his work.
I have an awesome job. I can build anything I want, and have the room to do it,” Parkers said. “It’s a big part of my family too, I’m the third-generation of Parker’s who have worked here.”
Another challenge of operating Parker Manufacturing is handling complex, arduous orders in a timely fashion.
“The biggest challenge is getting the work done on time,” Parker said. “I get somebody on the phone who wants a project done yesterday and it takes a lot of time for projects to get done. It takes two to three weeks for filters to get galvanized, so that takes a huge chunk of time.”
No matter how challenging the work is, Parker has managed to take on every project with his experience, and a little outside help.
“There hasn’t been really anything that’s knocked me on my butt,” Parker said. “If I ever get stuck with anything, I can call my dad and get some help from him. He’s only had to come down a couple times, but it’s nice to have him available.”
Since taking over the business, Parker has been working to bring more attention to the business.
“I’ve struggled to get more in the public eye. I’ve taken steps to get more attention, like posting hours on my door and trying to set up a storefront, but it isn’t easy,” Parker said. “I want to build personal relationships with people like you build a connection with someone when you’re building their motorcycle.”
Whatever the challenges of operating the business, the joys of working in the shop outweigh them tenfold for Parker.
“I could probably expand the business, but it’s really manageable the way it is. It’s pretty stress-free and enjoyable,” Parker said. “Sometimes I’ll just come down here and take up a project and there goes my entire day. The last four years have been a blur. It’s been non-stop, and I really wouldn’t want it any differently.”