By Carol Vogel
While there are many family businesses in the area, Bergeron Companies in Dolgeville, NY is one you may not have heard of. Their business? Designing and creating adaptive equipment for children with special needs.
Tim Bergeron is the Chairman and Founder of Bergeron Companies and the creative visionary that started it all. With the help of his son Jamie Bergeron (the President and CEO) and daughter Katie Bergeron Peglow (the COO) they are continuing to build his legacy, brick by brick.
The story begins in 1969. After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design and writing his thesis on creating tools for occupational therapists to use in the field with their clients, Tim Bergeron and his wife Peggy moved to Dolgeville, NY.
Initially, he was employed with Rawlings and developed their first Aluminum Baseball Bat. Returning to his roots, Tim started his own company, Tumble Forms, in 1973, which made specialized therapy equipment for children with special needs.
A few years later, Tim and Peggy would welcome their 4th child Carrie, who was born with Down syndrome. Carrie inspired him to design and create even more products for the special needs market, which at the time was severely lacking in therapeutic and adaptive options.
In 1998, online stores were a relatively new idea. Amazon had only been selling books for a few years at this time. Tim saw an opportunity and began selling online. “He sees things before most people do” quips Jamie. Katie agrees and responds with how her father, “saw a need for people to be able to purchase the equipment they couldn’t get through insurance, and what better products to start with than the products he created.”
Seeing his initial progress with Tumbleforms.com, he created Adaptivemall.com® in 2000 which sold other manufacturers’ adaptive products. By 2005 the two sites were joined under the name Adaptivemall.com creating an online marketplace for special needs products.
With the success of Adaptivemall.com, Tim realized this was a great way to generate capital on his own. “A big reason for my dad starting the website, was he saw a need for people but he also saw a way he could create some money so he could build another manufacturing business on his own. He didn’t want to be dependent on venture capitalists or some other owner that would come in and make decisions. He wanted the autonomy to make the decisions he thought were best for his company” Katie explains.
By 2001, Tim had created a new, advanced, latex-free cushion material through a unique – and proprietary – manufacturing process. The Soft-Touch® cushion technology he created offered more comfort and durability, for extended periods of use – an important feature of special needs products. A new brand, Special Tomato®, was born. The name for the brand was inspired by his daughter Carrie and a story she had written for school, “The Special Tomato of My Family”. You can read Carrie’s Special Tomato Story here (https://www.adaptivemall.com/storbehbran.html )
Needing space to manufacture Tim’s new cushion material, they purchased the historic Felt Shoe Company Building on South 2nd Street in Dolgeville. Producing with a small crew of 5, Special Tomato was growing and becoming a premier brand in the special needs market.
The seating and positioning systems being created by Tim and his team were bringing this type of equipment into the 21st century, creating therapeutic equipment that was useful and aesthetically designed to fit in at home or at school. Today Special Tomato is an internationally recognized brand helping children all over the world.
As Bergeron Companies continued to grow, a third brand name, Keekaroo®, was launched in 2007. Keekaroo introduced the Baby Gear industry to the comfortable and durable cushion technology previously reserved for the special needs market.
Keekaroo has won several awards for product design in the Baby Gear industry and their Peanut® Changer, a sleek diaper changing pad, is one of the most sought-after products on baby registries and with social media influencers.
Tim, Jamie, and Katie continued to expand the company, with their products in high demand. “We just went through the process, and rubbed every penny together that we had to make the next step – I describe it as we built it brick by brick. We didn’t have somebody bring in a prefab home and put it in place for us we built it brick by brick over the course of 20 years to make it what it is today” says Jamie of adapting and adjusting to the organic growth of the business.
Fast forward to the present day, Bergeron Companies is a thriving business that encompasses 3 Brands and employs approximately 72 workers. The factory on Faville Ave is where Tim’s famous seating and positioning products are manufactured in Dolgeville.
Warehousing, Shipping, and Customer Service are housed there as well while Marketing, Engineering, and staff Physical and Occupational Therapists work remotely from other areas of New York State, Massachusetts, and Maryland.
“We’re a growing company. We are invested in the community and we are invested in helping families of all kinds” says Katie. “I think we provide a working environment where it’s challenging for people but it’s also rewarding for them as well based on the types of products we make and the lives we affect.“
Elaborating on the achievements of the company, Jamie mentions the local impact and the big picture: helping others through the technology that his father has created. “Locally it’s the jobs and tax base we’ve developed and the commerce that comes from that. Local businesses make the rest of the local economy run. We as an employer are providing stability for the local economy overall which is a good thing. The broader accomplishment is the establishment of the manufacturing technology and what we have been able to deliver to the children and the people that use the products that we manufacture.”
Bergeron Companies takes pride in its core value of helping people. Jamie added, “Our customer service is built upon the idea that if you’re not happy we are going do whatever it takes to make you happy.” This is evident through the multitude of thank you cards, photos, and letters from customers that are proudly displayed in the Customer Service Office.
Katie is at a loss for words when she is met with such an outpouring of appreciation. “Seeing that people love the products and that they make a difference in so many people’s lives – it makes you step back and say that’s pretty darn awesome that we’ve been able to create a viable, sustainable company that continues to grow. And we have plans to grow it even more.”
If you would like to learn more about Bergeron Companies and their three brands:
Adaptivemall.com®: “We Understand” A robust eCommerce site boasting over 10,000 products to assist families in finding the best equipment to support their children at their highest functioning level. Includes Adaptive equipment and therapy toys for children and adults with special needs. www.adaptivemall.com
Special Tomato®: “Clinically sound, innovative design and exceptional value.” Safe, versatile, and durable pediatric seating and positioning systems that stand up to daily use in homes, clinics, schools, and hospitals. Soft, Supportive Solutions for Your Child with special needs. www.specialtomato.com
Keekaroo®: “Style + Function + Affordability” Offering a specially curated, upscale line of products for the modern family including Height Right™ Adjustable Wooden High Chairs, Peanut® Changer Diaper Changing Pad and Café Booster™ seat that fits in any décor and lasts a lifetime. www.keekaroo.com
A Marketing professional for over 20 years, Carol Vogel is always writing. She enjoys telling stories, from crafting brand strategies and identities to creating social media campaigns, copywriting, and building websites. Carol has also designed and developed course content as an adjunct faculty member at Herkimer College.
The youngest of seven children, Carol was raised in Dolgeville, N Y. Moving away to pursue her education and career strengthened her appreciation of this beautiful area. She is excited to highlight stories from her hometown for the readers of My Little Falls.
Carol loves to entertain. Hosting game nights and outdoor movies gives her the opportunity to gather people together. She loves making homemade pasta, is obsessed with great food and when given the choice, she will always choose cake.
Carol lives in Little Falls with her husband, Andy, and their black lab, Gypsy, who likes to take walks very, very early in the morning.
If you have a story idea or want to reach out, you may contact Carol through her email at firstname.lastname@example.org