If you drive Lakeview Avenue regularly – and, really, who in Dracut doesn’t? – you have likely driven past a company that is recognized internationally as a leader in its field.
Essex Silver-Line, producer of one of the most popular floor sanders in the industry, is housed in a nondescript building at 1118 Lakeview Avenue along Beaver Brook in the Navy Yard District, sandwiched between Dracut Appliance Center and the Coravos Plaza, which contains Mama’s Italian Restaurant and CardSmart.
Lauren Goddard represents the third generation of the Barous family that started the company nearly a century ago. She and her husband, John, run the company these days.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The story of Essex Silver-Line starts in 1938, when Frank Barous was one of the country’s top salesmen of sandpaper and other sundries to hardware stores across New England. Porter Cable was in the business of making floor sanders at the time, and the company asked Frank if he could sell them -- a silly question for someone who, it was said, could sell ice to an Eskimo.
Soon, Porter Cable was bought out by another company, and Francis decided it was time to start his own line of floor sanders.
“He said, ‘I’ll start making my own machines,’” John Goddard says, and Lauren adds, “’And make more money.’”
Frank started Essex Machine Sales on Essex Street in Lawrence and called his line of equipment Silver-Line Sanders. He designed the SL-8 sander and the SL-6 edger, the basic designs of which remain the same to this day.
“If you do it right, you don’t have to change it,” John says.
The 1950s saw the beginnings of the rental industry. Hardware stores like True Value and Do It Best would buy Silver-Line products and make big money renting them out, and Essex Silver-Line found another outlet for its products.
The 1970s and ’80s saw big changes for the company. First, it moved to its current location in Dracut. Then Francis’ sons, Frank (Lauren’s father) and Dennis, who had been helping their father for two decades, took over the company, expanding its line of products to include abrasives, floor maintainers, drain cleaners, wallpaper strippers and more.
Essex Sales and Silver-Line Sanders merged into one corporation, and its 11 employees now produce one of the most popular floor sanders in the rental industry. Meanwhile, the company purchased a distributorship on the West Coast to keep a presence there. Essex Silver-Line West is now located in Washington State.
All of Essex Silver-Line’s products, including sanders, edgers, orbital polishers/refinishers, rotary polishers and carpet machines, are built right here in Dracut. Essex Silver-Line prides itself on being the only manufacturer of floor sanders that is wholly owned, operated and built in the United States.
It has contracts in such countries as New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Poland, Barbados and Canada.
And the company is still, nearly a century later, known for the durability of its products. As its website states, Essex Silver-Line’s products are designed for efficiency and engineered to stand up to even the toughest customer, yet easy enough for a do-it-yourselfer to use and achieve professional results.
“We have a customer who’s been using the same machine for 20 years,” Lauren says.
“And that’s a new one,” John adds.
John says there is a reason the SL-8 is the leader in rental floor sanders on the market.
“It’s a workhorse,” he says.
Essex Silver-Line’s next generation – namely, Leslie and John’s children, Riane and John II – already work for the company, and though Lauren’s dad passed away in 2019, her mother, Carmen Barous, still comes to the office three days a week.
And lest there be any doubt what type of flooring the Goddards prefer, let’s dispel it here and now.
“Hardwood is the way to go,” Lauren says. “If you do it right, it’ll last a long time. It’s very durable.”
And you know what product to go with if it needs a sanding.
Visit essexsilverline.com for more information or to shop for your flooring needs. You can also call 978-957-2116 to talk to an expert.