Zima Incorporated was established in 1969 by Kurt Zimmerli, President with Ernst Rickenmann, Vice President, to handle business related to representation of leading textile machinery and supply companies. The first client was Eduard Küsters Maschinenfabrik of Krefeld, West Germany, now Andritz Küsters. The partnership was formed after a ten year friendship after the S-Roll was developed in Krefeld. One of the first three or four employees was Doris Sherrill, the office manager and secretary, who began a long time career with Mr. Zimmerli. Doris came with a textile back ground at Milliken Magnolia and had a minor in English, a very big plus to correct Kurt’s Swiss-English.
In 1967, Küsters developed a viable continuous carpet dyeing machine that sold quickly to carpet companies in Dalton, GA. Long-time Küsters textile engineer Heinz Grüber lived in Dalton and visited every industrial building with a smokestack in order to probe the possibilities for selling a carpet dye machine. That business needed to be served from a US base.
A few years earlier, Roger Milliken and other textile leaders along with Dick Tuckey, executive vice-president of the Spartanburg Chamber of Commerce, and Governor John C. West developed a plan to attract German and Swiss textile machinery operations to locate offices in Spartanburg County in order to better serve textile customers. Zima was one of the first companies to locate there in 1969. (3) Kurt visited three other cities and chose Spartanburg based on his ability to secure a fine piece of property at a reasonable price facing I-85 and with a short commute to his likely home. His previous job required commutes between New York and Philadelphia and into Philadelphia. One of the other candidate cities promised a 45 minute commute. That was not acceptable.
After visits to leading European textile machinery companies, in addition to Küsters, Reggiani Macchine of Bergamo, Italy, manufacturers of the RQ-I rotary screen printing machines; Obermaier & Cie, Lambrecht, West Germany, manufacturers of package and beam dyeing machinery; and Famatex, Gera, West Germany, builders of tenter frames were early additions to the Zima offerings. A building was begun in 1969 to house the office, spare parts and machinery assembly.
Heinz Gruber, Ladson Stover, Albert Kleeman, Kurt Zimmerli and Jack Gibbs 1970
Zima/Küsters Addition 1975
In 1972, Zima advertised a Zima Calender using the S-Roll by Küsters. Business grew quickly and expansion to house Küsters in 1975. The company suffered a major shock when Vice President Ernst Rickenmann passed away at age 41. The first shipment into the GSP (Greenville/Spartanburg) Foreign Trade Zone, the second in the state, was established in 1978 to allow import of goods from Küsters Krefeld.
GSP Foreign Trade Zone 1978
Also a new office building was constructed in 1979 at the back end of the property. Blas Miyares joined Küsters Textile Machinery Corp. as General Manager.
Further business expansion changed assignments. In 1985 Kurt became Chairman and CEO of Küsters Corporation and was joined on the board by Peter Heintz, President and CEO of Küsters Krefeld and Dr. Liesel Kroner, daughter of Eduard Küsters who was educated as a chemical engineer.
In 1987, sales reached a position to enable Zima to be listed as a South Carolina 100 company. There was also a huge celebration in Dalton, GA to commemorate the 20-year partnership between EKK, Zima and the US carpet industry. In 1994 as Kurt approached retirement age, he sold Zima Corporation to Küsters. Halis Alkis joined as president in 1995 and later became CEO.
In 1998, Küsters Corp. acquired the dispensing business of Dalton Industrial Systems. Küsters opened the ColorSystems business in Dalton. In 1999, many milestones occurred. Küsters Paper Machinery Corp. has a major expansion. Kurt stepped down as Chairman of the Küsters Corporation Board and is succeeded by Dr. Henning Bähren. Board members included Dr. Kroner, Mr. Alkis and Detlief Grundel. Eduard Küsters Maschinenfabrik celebrated 50 years, Zima 30 years and Küsters Corporation 25 years. Since 1999, many changes occurred. Hans Hendrix was named President and CEO of Küsters Corp. and was succeeded by Ken Kruse. All of Küsters was sold to Jagenberg. Küsters Machinery and Zima merged to form Küsters Zima Corp. Küsters Paper was sold to Andritz. KZC acquired Automated Systems Equipment. And Waste Tech, Chicago, a major water treatment entity. In 2007, the Zima building was sold to Jagenberg.
Doris Sherrill, Administrative Assistant and 40 year employee at Zima and Kurt Zimmerli
Some of the companies represented by Zima over the years:
Stork Brabant of Boxmeer, Netherlands developed a rotary screen print machine in 1963 and showed the prototype RD I at the ITMA show of 1963. A seamless screen also allowed perfect pattern repeat. The idea of rotary screens offered a dramatic improvement in productivity. The RD-III appeared in 1971.
Van Wyk Industrie Producten of Sandpoort, Holland, dispensing systems (color kitchens) for printing machine support.
Famatex GmbH, Gera, West Germany, manufacturer of tenter frames.
EVAC Paul Mickler developed an improved vacuum slot for continuous removal of unbound water from textile webs. EVAC was added to Zima in 1990. http://kusterszima.com/textile-non-woven/products/vacuum-technology
Klieverik Heli BV, Netherlands, producer of thermal processing systems for fusing carpet, nonwoven bonding and heat setting of fabrics. http://www.klieverik.com/companyprofile.html
Massen Machine Vision Systems, Germany. Nonwoven inspection system June 2002 http://www.textileworld.com/Articles/2002/June/Nonwovens_Technical/Massen_Appoints_Zima_As_U_S_Representative.html
Mitter GmbH & Co. Maschinenbau, Schloss Holte-Stuckenbrock Germany (printing) http://www.mitter-mmb.com/contact/index.htmlm-tec GmbH textile finishing
Herbert Olbrich GmbH & Co. KG Bocholt, Germany non woven machinery http://www.olbrich.com/en/fields-of-activity/technical-textiles
Pallman Zweibrucken, Germany (size reduction) http://www.google.com/search?q=Pallman&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&
Van Wees (crossply) http://www.crossply.com/main_content.htm
- Spartanburg Herald Journal March 5, 1977 page 19 http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19770305&id=j4EsAAAAIBAJ&sjid=Vs0EAAAAIBAJ&pg=3053,859878
- Corbin, Laura Hendrix, “An International Influx,” in Textile Town: Spartanburg County, South Carolina, Hub City Writers Project, Spartanburg, SC, Betsy Wakefield Teter, ed. 2002.
- Personal communication, Kurt Zimmerli, Doris Sherrill, November 2012