A Golden Anniversary! Company Founder David Fell Retires After 50 Years
After 50 years at the helm, David H. Fell & Co. founder David H. Fell has recently celebrated his retirement. While we’re sad to see him go, he has certainly earned this time for himself and we’re excited for the future of this company. After half a century of his leadership, we are ready to build on the foundations he laid.
A party gave everyone the chance to look back on the company’s beginnings, reflect on how far the company had come, and celebrate decades of achievement.
As for beginnings, it started, of all places, in the dental business, where David worked for three months before moving on to work for Handy & Harman. In his years with them, he drove a truck and met customers while making deliveries. He also learned about alloying gold and silver as well as preparing samples for assay. He then went to work for Marty Hannum. Marty was a gold refiner in Los Angeles who had a reputation for being the most honest refiner on the west coast.
David and Marty had a great relationship, but in 1973, David felt it was time for him to go into business for himself. But what he learned from Marty stayed with him through his entire career: a commitment to honesty, to building a reputation and living up to it in every interaction. A business like this one is built on trust and honesty, and if you don’t have a good reputation, you don’t have anything.
That commitment meant that David didn’t try to poach any of Marty’s customers when he started his own business. Still, he got plenty of work, all of which he did out of his own backyard. He worked on refining from 11 pm to 2 am every night because he was also working a day job. He constructed his own furnace out of a 50-gallon drum and even engineered his own horizontal scrubber, a device that pumps water and caustic soda over plastic to remove harmful fumes emitted during the refining process.
As a one-man operation, he had to solve problems with ingenuity and creativity. One such creation was a nose pour furnace requested by a customer who wanted a furnace that could pour from the same spot every time. David bought a winch from a surplus store that had been used to load bombs onto military aircraft. He mounted the winch on an A-frame so that when you lifted the nose, the furnace poured into the fixed crucible.
This desire to learn how things work and find a better way to do things, along with a commitment to honest dealing, eventually allowed David to rent a 20’x20’ shop on Washington Blvd. in the City of Commerce. That tiny rented shop turned into six separate buildings, which ultimately became one big building. The days of refining in the backyard were over.
Without much of a plan for expansion in mind, the business snowballed from a homemade backyard furnace to a successful business with multiple employees. The customers were pouring in, and because the company could be relied on to do good work, they kept coming back. As David built a name for himself and a reputation to match, the business continued to grow.
But with a reputation for honesty comes people looking to take advantage of it. It wasn’t uncommon, especially in the 70s and 80s, to see people trying to pass off brass as gold, or lead as platinum, or gold-plated bars as solid gold. These sorts of swindles could have easily jeopardized the business. But DH Fell survived these challenges and others to remain in business and thriving for 50 years.
Attaining SCS certification for recycled metals was the latest step in this commitment to ethical practices in refining and production. While David himself won’t be running things anymore, the CEO Larry Fell and the rest of the staff will be carrying on his legacy of building honest relationships with customers for years to come.