In the late 1940s, a lawyer named Charles B. Kaufmann and a mechanical engineer named Fred Burnside worked together to develop a solution to the problem of pest birds roosting on, nesting on, and causing damage to structures and buildings. As a result, the two-man team invented a bird spike product, a “porcupine wire” bird barrier strip, that they began manufacturing and selling in 1950. Kaufmann patented the bird spike, became the sole owner of the company and called the product Nixalite.
“Nixalite is the name that my grandfather started,” said Cory Gellerstedt, grandson of Kaufmann and co-president of Nixalite of America. In German, “nix” means no, and to “alite” means to land. “So, ‘no landing,’” he says. The Nixalite stainless steel bird spike is now available in eight designs and remains one of the East Moline, Ill.-based firm’s core products today.
CONTINUING THE LEGACY. The Nixalite “was the very first bird spike ever invented,” says Gellerstedt, “and that’s how things got started.” Kaufmann and Burnside “had a couple of different designs and more than one patent,” but bird spikes were the focus of the business, along with the mounting systems used to mount the spikes on building surfaces and the machines that manufactured the spikes and mounts, he says. Then, a few years into the process, Kaufmann bought out Burnside.
In 1957, when Kaufmann passed away, Marie Kaufmann Gellerstedt, Kaufmann’s daughter and Gellerstedt’s mother, “made a promise” to her father that “she would keep the company running,” says Gellerstedt. At that time, Nixalite was strictly manufacturing and selling only bird spike products. “My mother focused on getting that product into the market,” he says. In the 1970s, she “started bringing in some additional types of products that she could sell along with the spikes.” For many years, the company focused only on bird control products, but then over the years, the firm expanded its product offerings.
“When my brother Jon and I got involved with the company, we started [selling] other bird control products to complement what we had,” says Gellerstedt. The brothers added netting, repellents, wildlife control products, fogging equipment and pest control items to the company’s portfolio, which is in addition to the manufacturing side of the business. As a result, Nixalite has “turned into a manufacturing and distribution company,” he says, selling to professional installers, end users and through various distribution channels.
BUSINESS FOCUS. Nixalite sells products to an array of industries in addition to the professional pest control market. “Architecture is a huge industry for us” where architects will specify Nixalite’s products for new construction or renovation projects, says Gellerstedt. For example, an architect might specify the company’s bird spikes to be installed on the ledges of a new building construction project or bird netting to be incorporated into the outside of a building or as a drop ceiling in a airplane hangar or warehouse, he explains. “We do airplane hangars, convention centers, runway signs on airports, government buildings, schools and universities, hospitals, homes, roofing and signage companies,” says Gellerstedt.
The company’s planning department consults; reviews architectural plans, drawings and photos; and sometimes travels to project sites to provide advice, suggestions and solutions regarding which bird and wildlife control products “should be used and implemented that would best protect that situation,” he says. “We focus on service to the end user” to ensure that the correct product is used and that the products are installed properly, says Gellerstedt.
Additionally, Nixalite primarily focuses on non-toxic bird and wildlife control products. The bird spikes, for instance, will not hurt birds. Instead, the birds “can’t get footing and they just fly away,” says Gellerstedt. As a result, the company has worked on projects with the Humane Society of the United States and the National Audubon Society.
STICK WITH WHAT WORKS. “There [have] been a lot of new products that have come on the market, new technologies, different chemical repellents and lasers, but what I’ve found to be the most effective is still exclusion for birds and wildlife,” says Gellerstedt.
Exclusion “might cost a little bit more money, and might be more labor intensive,” he says, but exclusion-related products like spikes and netting, still “work the best in the long run.”
These core products are still the “number one sellers” at Nixalite. “I stand by the old trusted and true exclusion types of products.” It’s “what we’ve been doing for 70 years,” he says.