By Ashleigh Hollowell
Off historic Union Avenue in downtown Pueblo, just next to the Arkansas River, sits a small family-owned and -operated manufacturing business that has defied the odds for decades.
Aztec Manufacturing opened in 1947 and has been at the same downtown location for its entire 70 years. The company specializes in steel manufacturing and ornamental ironwork for security doors, window guards, railings, patio covers, awnings and various home improvement features.
The establishment has changed hands since it first opened. Dan Wodiuk is the current owner and the business has been in the Wodiuk family for four generations.
According to a 2014 study by the entrepreneur and small-business journal Tharawat Magazine, which analyzed more than 40 small businesses from different countries on every continent, only 30 percent of family-owned businesses are passed on to a second generation. Only 12 percent survive to the third generation, and only 3 percent survive and operate in the fourth generation and beyond.
Wodiuk purchased Aztec from his father, Joe, and officially took over as owner in 1984. Four of his 10 employees are family.
“My children were down there doing stuff with the business when they were just little kids and that’s how I was when I was a little kid. I would help my dad on jobs,” he said.
“I think that if you can keep the kids interested at an early age … hopefully they will stay and not go look somewhere else for a job.”
The combination of creativity and functionality at Aztec Manufacturing is what kept Wodiuk interested enough to take over the business himself.
“One of the really neat things is that we’re filling a need and giving people something that’s going to keep them secure and it’s going to be beautiful at the same time,” he said. “It’s not just a bunch of ugly bars up there; it’s artwork.”
Wodiuk prides himself on his business’ strong family and local ties. He said he treats his employees like family even if they are not related and focuses on growing a repeat-customer base by building external friendships through reliability and quality. The Aztec Manufacturing website states: “When you are doing business with us, you are doing business with your neighbors. The work we do on our neighbors’ homes becomes a part of our community, so you can bet that we take pride in what we do.”
Wodiuk cited “putting out a very good quality product, giving good customer service, being fair with my employees,” as the values on which his business has operated for the last 33 years.
Recently, Wodiuk purchased two new machines that will allow expanded capabilities for bending and forming sheet metal. He expects the machinery to increase job demand and provide access to new opportunities.
“It’s important, being innovative … and staying up with the different changes. There will be more opportunities to sell. Not only will it help our own fabrication, but I can provide for other people who are needing those pieces of metal,” Wodiuk said.
And even though last year was one of Aztec Manufacturing’s most profitable and current business remains steady, Wodiuk does not plan to open a new location or move. The goal is to effectively continue as is and deliver both a premium service and product to residential and commercial customers in the state’s southern half, he said.
“I think what sets us apart the most is we are really sticklers on quality. If we don’t like it, it’s not going to go out the door,” Wodiuk said. “We aren’t going to wait for the customer to complain about it; it’s just not going to happen. I think that’s what sets us apart.
“We’re not happy with the status quo. We try to do better than anybody else.”