Generational Business Series Part #2: ICAS Wirehoods

The wine industry is no stranger to multi-generational family business. Survival is not easy nor assured. Enduring relationships are a key ingredient of success.

In my second article for this series, I highlight our first and longest vendor relationship. ICAS and Scott began collaboration in 1964 when my grandfather, Robert Scott, purchased Scott Labs. The company owned the patents and molds for the plastic sparkling wine stopper (patent image below). We needed a supply of wirehoods to hold these bad boys in place, so Robert headed to Europe. At that time few winemakers traveled to Europe and certainly not to visit suppliers. A WWII surface navy officer and later wing commander, Robert was well versed in spartan travel. With a suit and some pocket dictionaries, he was off to Germany and Italy. His goal: sign up new vendors and improve supply to winemakers in California and the USA. ICAS (Industria Canavesana Attrezzature Speciali) was his first success.

Ivrea, Italy is notable for its industrial prowess and home to ICAS as well as Olivetti (Italy’s version of IBM). It’s located at the base of the French Alps, pock-marked by castles and stunning to visit. ICAS was always specialized in one thing: producing wirehoods (Gabbietta-IT, Muselet-FR, Bozales-ES, Verschluss-DE). The original production used manual cranks and screws to bend the complex form of the wire (semi-auto production from the 1950's below). ICAS grew successful with focus on mechanization, maximizing output and optimizing consistency. This was when Robert Scott rolled into town and met the proprietor Bruno Getto for the first time. Headline photo shows Robert (right) with Bruno (center) in Ivrea with the Alps in background, 1965.

Did I mention Robert spoke no Italian and Bruno no English? By good fortune, both subscribed to communication by hand gestures and loud-talk. Both were fierce businesspeople with a vision for success. With some food, wine and EVENTUALLY a translator, Scott Labs became the exclusive ICAS representative. Today ICAS provides well over 50% of the world's supply of wirehoods. Our union in North America yielded even more through the work, service, quality and support of our people and customers.

From 1965 to 2000 the wine market grew in the USA, and so too did the Getto and Scott family. As a 20-year-old, I took an internship to work for ICAS in production. I packed a bit more than Robert Scott did on his first visit to Ivrea. Being 20 in Italy, working in a factory and the only English speaker for miles was an adventure. It was also another stitch in the fabric of our professional and personal business with ICAS.

I left Italy fluent in the language and 15 pounds heavier. I also left with a passion for the wirehood as a manufactured piece of art. I left with a new extended family and an Italian brother in Alberto Getto (Gen3 with Zack in photo on right). Like our grandfathers, we still favor loud-talk and hand gestures despite speaking each other’s languages fluently. Thirty-five years after my grandfather's visit, the connection between families and companies continues.

Our mutual business took us through turbulent macroeconomic times, currency conversions, changes in taste, production techniques, application equipment, industry consolidation, competition, sales, management and production challenges. In the end all problems had a simple path to resolution: Talk, eat, understand, eat, solve, eat. Like a family working out problems at the dinner table, our unbreakable relationship made obstacles irrelevant to success.

Business is personal. Generational business is more. It's family.

Zachary Scott, CEO, Scott Laboratories