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Herman Schecter, later known as Hy, was born in 1922. Through a life of hard work, a dynamic personality and the love and support of his wife, Doris, Herman created a company that would continue to grow and prosper.
Herman went to Tilden High School where he was editor of the Yearbook and voted "Boy Politician". All through high school Herman was up before 5 a.m. seven days a week to complete his grocery route. He earned $4.00 per week. Herman later enrolled in City College of New York.
In 1942, he was called into service. This did not stop the pattern of learning. He underwent basic training in Texas where he represented his company in the golden gloves as a welterweight. He won his first three bouts and was happy to be out of boxing when he lost his fourth. He was assigned to the Medical Corps where he studied X-ray technology. The Army Specialized Training Program allowed Herman to attend the University of Missouri, School of Engineering, where he completed three full semesters. As Administrative Assistant to the Commanding Officer, he rose to the rank of Technical Sergeant. His unit served in France and Germany for two years. At the end of the war, he studied at Biarritz American University and now speaks four languages fluently.
Herman wanted to study Dentistry. He needed to earn the money to pay for his studies, so he went back to seek employment with a textile converting company that had employed him before the war. At this firm he ran into Walter Sommers, who had worked with Herman before the war and had just established his own plastics company. Walter Sommers subsequentl
y invited young Herman to come to work for him, an offer which he accepted. They converted and distributed a line of imitation leather and plastics. Herman's salary was $30 a week. Schecter and Sommers worked together in their small office doing everything - shipping, receiving, billing and bookkeeping.
It did not seem a fortuitous move at the time. The entire line had had a bad season in 1947. Herman was forced to work three days a week in a poultry shop while holding his job at Sommers.
On November 16, 1947, however, things rapidly began to improve. Doris Osman and Herman Schecter wed. With Doris by his side, Herman devoted his energy to improving Sommers' products. Business improved at Sommers the following year and Herman was able to maintain his employment.
In June, 1948, despite the progress of his company, Mr. Sommers was anxious to raise his family outside of New York. Mr. Sommers was offered an excellent opportunity in a big midwestern department store and decided to go out of the plastics business.
Walter Sommers made his decision to sell out. Herman Schecter saw an opportunity to become the owner of the business for a relatively small sum - $1,006.74. He invested his modest savings toward the purchase of the Sommers Company. With Doris handling the office responsibilities, Herman utilized his dynamic personality to sell and
develop new products.
With the introduction and widespread use of vinyl as a substitute for leather in many manufactured items, the potential growth for this material was just coming to light. Industries such as Handbags, Belts, Small Leathergoods, Bookbinding were eager to see this new vinyl fabric.
With a born knack for salesmanship, "Hy" Schecter began to sell his products with astounding success. He was able to convince countless manufacturers of the advantages both in quality and economy in using plastics. He was so successful in marketing these products that several large mills made him their exclusive distributor.
In 1953, Sommers was the first company in their field to introduce a highly polished black imitation patent leather in continuous rolls, which was formerly available only in small sheets. This item registered and trade-marked as Roller Patent took the industry by storm and became a highly popular product.
In 1959, a new concept for plastic was developed. It was an expanded vinyl which United States Rubber (later, Uniroyal) called Naugahyde. Sommers called this "sponge leather," Marshmallow. This closely simulated the touch and feel of soft, genuine leather. It was used to manufacture better quality, less-expensive-than-leather, ladies handbags, outerwear, belts and billfolds. The humane aspect of using synthetic, "vegan" leather to save animals was not a consideration back then. To this day, Roller Patent and Marshmallow are still in demand.
In January 1951, Hy and Doris Schecter introduced yet another new product to the world: Their first-born son, Fred. This successful introduction was followed eighteen months later by the birth of their second son, Edward Meyer. On April 10, 1954, the Schecter family moved from Brooklyn to their new home in the su
burbs of Long Island. A few years later, in 1957, they were blessed with the birth of their third son, Jay. Ambitious and persevering, Hy and Doris completed the picture in 1963. Stuart was born. Fred and Edward currently own and operate Sommers Plastics. Fred's son, Sam, who graduated with a degree in business from the University of Vermont, has begun the third generation at Sommers Plastics.
Hy and Doris's other sons, Jay and Stuart, are not in the plastic business. Jay is a neurologist in Rome, Georgia. Stuart is a cardiologist at Mt. Sinai Hospital on Long Island.
Throughout his illustrious career, Herman Schecter vividly demonstrated his devotion to worthy causes. He has been honored by the State of Israel, United Jewish Appeal, Cancer Care, the Deborah Hospital, Brandeis School, Cerebral Palsy and Temple Hillel of Valley Stream. In 2000, Hy Schecter worked night and day at The Woodlands Country Club raised record-breaking money for The National Parkinson Foundation.
Unstoppable, not resting on his laurels, Hy Schecter took up golf at age 50. In his first year, he was awarded "Most Improved Golfer" by Golf Digest Magazine. Years later, his collection of trophies and awards outgrew his house and had to be warehoused.. In September, 1991, he won the Seniors Tournament at The Old Westbury Golf & Country Club. In 2012, he savored his time with his wife, Doris, getting in a few games of Rummy Q at the Vi, formerly the Hyatt Residence, a continuing care community in Aventura, FL.
July 21, 2012- The Schecter boys attending the wedding of Sam Schecter and Nicole Tarica
From left: Fred, Ross, Alex, Stuart, Michael, Aaron, David, Jay and Edward Schecter
2011- Hy and Doris surrounded by loving family
From left: Edward, Julie, Aaron, Liz, Sam, Nicole, Gina, Michael, Stephaine, Jay, Allison, Oliver and Brian
The following poem was published in the Fall of 2008 issue of Communication Connection. It was written by Susan Miller, a Parkinson Disease Advocate who says of the poem, "I wrote the following poem as a means of venting my anger at having a degenerative, incurable disease, but to also state that I may have Parkinson's, but it does not have me." The same can be said for Herman Schecter.
Be on your way, Sir Parkinson,
You uninvited guest.
You must have lied to get inside
You wretched, loathsome pest.
You robbed me of my motor skills,
You took cells from my brain.
You give me grief with no relief
And laugh when I’m in pain.
You better leave while you still can
I’m feeling strong and witty.
Take your disease when you go, please,
And with it shame and pity.
I do not fear you evil one,
Just stay away from me.
I’ll proudly fight this nasty plight
Till you’ll no longer be.
Be gone Sir Parknison!
Originally two German chemists named Wurtz, in 1848, and Henschel, in 1884, made the first isocyanates, one of the building blocks of polyurethane. It twas many years later that polyurethane became commercialized as synthetic leather. Herman Schecter and his sons, Fred and Edward, current owners of Sommers Plastics, contributed many milestones along the journey from crude, sheet PVC plastic films-inflexible and hardly user-friendly, to the high-performance and fashionable, synthetic leathers available today.
• 1953- Sommers became first company in the USA to introduce a polished, imitation leather in continuous rolls, formerly available only in small sheets. Produced in Germany, it was one of the very first German imports of any kind after World War II. Schecter trademarked these materials Roller Patent® and Roller Clear®. Once he convinced manufacturers of the benefits of this foreign material it took the industry by storm and became a highly popular product. Schecter became known as "The King of Plastics.:
• 1959- a new concept for plastic was developed. It was expanded vinyl Sommers called Marshmallow® and closely simulated the touch and feel of genuine leather. It was used in the manufacture of better quality, more expensive ladies handbags and accessories.
• 1968-Schecter sold Sommers Plastics, the company he had built from scratch, including his modern 100,000 sq ft warehouse/offices on Route 17 in East Rutherford, NJ. The purchaser was Whittaker Corporation, a large conglomerate busy acquiring diverse companies in their aggressive program for growth.
• 1964-1967, Whittaker experienced a spectacular rise. Its stock went from $1 a share to $46 at the time Schecter sold them his company. That sale, worth many millions in stock came with restrictions as to how long Schecter must hold his shares before cashing. During the interim, Whittaker mismanaged the various businesses swept up a few years earlier. A major strain was felt by Whittaker.
• DuPont, in the mid-1960's, invested millions in the promotion of Corfam, a synthetic substitute for leather, It was launched in 1963, but it was conceived many years before. Indeed, in the late 1930s researchers at DuPont thought they had discovered ways to make leather-like materials and had experimented with various possible uses. One of the most obvious was footwear. For all of Corfam's strengths, it was not as flexible or "skin-like" as ordinary leather, and therefore not suited for shoes designed for comfort or everyday use. In fact, the New York Times in April, 1971, referred to Corfam as DuPont's $100 million Edsel." Corfam failed seven years after its introduction. But plastics were here to stay. And stay. And get better. Polyurethane textiles were around the corner.
• 1967 The film, "The Graduate," opens and memorializes the line, "I have one word for you: Plastics," delivered to recent graduate, BenjaminBraddock (Dustin Hoffman). That line was destined to become #52 of the 100 top movie quotations according to the AFI American Film Institute. For the next decade or so it was destined to be repeated too many times to count to this writer, then sixteen-year old, Fred Schecter.
• By 1970, Whittaker, operating on a $332 million debt saw their (and Schecter's) stock price drop to $6 a share. A number of setbacks including a $6 million inventory shortage cancelling the attempted sale of their Crown Aluminum subsidiary forced Wall Street to hold up trading on the stock. A couple of days later, trading reopened. Herman Schecter woke up to a loss of over $1,000.000. With four sons to put through private school, camp, college and medical schools, Schecter saw his fortune disappear practically overnight.
• 1977, Whittaker offered to sell Sommers back to Herman Schecter for a fraction of what they paid a few years before. The price was still too steep for Schecter, out of work and down on his luck. He lacked resources to repurchase his company. His two oldest sons, Fred and Ed, recent college graduates, were surprised one day by their dad's question: "Boys, want to be in the plastics business?"
• Thanks to two loans, one of $500,000 from Schecter's' German dear friend, Dieter Lissman, who met Schecter years before supplying Roller Clear® and Roller Patent® the world's first PVC made in a calender- the machine that extrudes PVC into rolls of various grains and patterns in continuous lengths of 54" width. You might know of them as ALKOR, the factory that made Con-Tact paper- the thin, adhesive backed, decorating vinyl used to cover pantry shelves. An additional $500,000 came from two other European friends looking to distribute their superior PVC film to the USA. Agreeable terms were reached and Schecter once again owned Sommers, though it was reduced to a fraction of the size and prestige it once had. The work was cut out for Hy Schecter and sons.
• 1994, Sommers develops a new polyurethane textile. The construction consisted of a durable face with a polyester, circular knit backing that gave the overall material a slight stretch providing improved comfort and workability for many end products. The initial focus market was footwear. Apparel and fashion accessories soon followed.
Copyright 2011 Sommers Plastic Products. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Sommers Plastic Products, All Rights Reserved
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