History

Pentti Virtanen (b. 1928) was the son of a shopkeeper, and he started his own working life as a fisherman on the nearby Pyhäjärvi lake. Fishing for a living was common on the lake in those days. In poverty-stricken, post-war Finland, there were no benefits or state support; one had to do the best they could to get on in life.

Being the son of a shopkeeper, it was natural for Pentti to start trading in fish. He started to buy fish from other fishermen in the area and sell it to wholesalers around the country. To transport the fish, he naturally needed a vehicle. This was not so simple in post-war Finland, with the economy in trouble and a shortage of vehicles. He eventually had just about enough money together to buy a small, used Commer truck from a Pori fishmonger. There they were, two fish sellers doing a deal on a vehicle. There was some reluctance on the seller's part - not on the price of the vehicle, that they had agreed. The problem was its load; Pentti had offered the sum "for the whole lot", with witnesses to back this up. Given that there were, indeed, witnesses, the seller eventually had to concede, letting the truck go with the load of empty wooden fish crates it was carrying at the time. Life was good for Pentti, rolling into Turku with his load of fish in his own vehicle. The vehicle's lack of brakes hardly mattered when going down the Anikainen Hill in Turku or when taking a load of fish to Kauttua station, from where the fish would continue its journey on freight trains. The 'cold chain' continued unbroken, even in the summer - after all, they did put ice in the wooden boxes with the fish!

The fish business eventually dwindled, as Pentti's interest in transport took over. The petrol-engined Commers came and went until the number of vehicles began to grow. The make changed to Mercedes-Benz, and the fuel to diesel. The vehicles were employed on general haulage duties as well as a regular, scheduled route, Säkylä - Kauttua - Honkilahti - Turku. However, transport wasn't to be the gold mine it was hoped to be, and during the 1960s the number of vehicles dropped to two. During this time relationships with industries in Kauttua and Säkylä had been formed, and the needs of these customers led to an entirely new direction.

In 1965, the manufacture of packaging materials for Ahlström's factories in Kauttua began. Ahlström had built up a good business exporting to the Soviet Union, and there seemed to be an unending need for confectionery wrappers over there. The rolls of paper were protected at each end by hardboard disks, and the rolls needed a turned wood support to hold them. These wood products were the first products manufactured, and towards the end of the 1960s Virtanen began manufacturing pallets. The first pallets were made by hand, nailed with good, old-fashioned hammers. The fastest men were able to hammer a whole 10kg box of 50mm nails in one working day! In the 1970s nail guns were brought in, and due to the confectionery wrappers changing that side of production eventually stopped; pallet manufacture grew and became the company's main business.

In 1976, the company's production facilities were destroyed in a fire. However, the end of something is the beginning of something new. Although the fire was an extreme blow financially, the company was able to rebuild, taking the opportunity to introduce efficient, mechanised production lines. More and more was invested into pallet-making machinery. Most of these machines were made in-house, in the company's own workshops.

The company was once again the victim of a fire in 1995, which completely destroyed the production facilities. The investigation that was carried out showed the cause to be arson; unfortunately the perpetrator was never caught. The arson attempt on a church nearby on the same night also went unpunished, although the church was spared. The fire was, of course, another massive financial blow, but giving up was not an option. The production facility was rebuilt again, even more modern and efficient than before, this time buying in the machines. Customer relationships were also looked after; everybody at the company really pulled together, and not a single customer was lost.

Today's Puutyöliike P. Virtanen is a strong player in its field. The continual updating and improving of our production machines is second nature to us, with the most recent major investment in pallet manufacturing equipment being made in 2007. We have no intention of resting on our laurels in the future, either. In the history of the company and its founder, one thing has always led to another. Fishing led to transport, which led to pallet manufacture. The Commer (with no brakes) was a more long-reaching direction change; the company still has a truck, but the make has changed to Mercedes-Benz and it has working disc brakes!