Evans Tool & Die Co. Celebrates 75th Anniversary

Evans Tool & Die Co. Celebrates 75th Anniversary

By Beth Slaughter, Sexton Staff Correspondent

Among her favorite childhood memories are those of going to Decatur to spend time with her grandfather at the tool and die company he opened in 1948. Her father and uncles worked there too, and Dee Barnes remembers she would often walk around barefoot on the factory floor, which usually meant having to pull small pieces of metal out of her feet. Today, she wears shoes, but being out there on the factory floor is still one of her favorite places. While her grandfather passed away in 2013, Barnes carries on as CEO and president of the company Leonard L. Evans Jr. started with his wife Mary Alice in their daughter’s playhouse.

Shown here are members of the Evans family involved in the operation of the company: top, Joel Barnes, tool maker; bottom, l-r, Rodney Barnes, senior vice president of manufacturing; Dee Barnes, president and CEO; Ian Barnes, tool & die supervisor; Tyler Duensing, tool maker; Ray Duensing, retired CEO; Manda Atkins, quality control; and Len Evans, retired vice president.

Both her grandparents worked in the business, with her grandmother being the first woman tool and die maker, Barnes said. Evans Tool & Die soon outgrew the playhouse and moved into the house where the children slept on cots at night right in the middle of the die shop. By 1978, the business had grown so much, having added Evans Metal Stamping, that it moved into a new 200,000-square-foot facility at 157 North Salem Road in Conyers, which remains its headquarters today. The company continues to expand, having recently added Evans Laser Cutting and Metal Fabrication division.

Evans Tool & Die Co. will celebrate its 75th anniversary this year, a milestone in both the history of the company and the family, which now has a fourth generation involved in its operations. Barnes says that from the time she was a young girl, she knew what she wanted to do, and from the time she was old enough to work, that’s where she spent every summer.

“I always wanted to work at Evans,” she said. “I just always knew that’s what I wanted to do… I started out filing papers. They literally would save up all the filing all year, and then I would file all summer.”

Barnes worked part-time at 16 and then did work release at the company during her senior year of high school. After attending Georgia College and State University, she joined the family business full-time in the accounting department where she served as company controller for 15 years. She scaled back to part-time for a few years to raise her three children, but then went back to the company full-time and in 2011, Barnes was named CEO.

Her grandfather retired from the company at 80, but Barnes said he still came by there almost every day until he died at 92. She said she has wonderful memories of their time together.

“He is just a strong presence here for generations,” Barnes said. “We talk a lot about the values he instilled in us. One of those was being debt free. Growing up in the Depression, he knew in hard times it would be difficult to manage. We still maintain that value today — not that we don’t borrow money, but we never borrow more than we can pay back. Integrity is super important. If you said to a customer a price for a part for something and find out you priced it wrong, you still have to honor what you said.”

Barnes said excellence is another company value as Evans seeks to excel in its workmanship. In addition, the company also states its goal is to be generous, with Barnes saying many people remember her grandfather as a generous man.

“I had just taken over the business in 2011, and he was very proud of that,” Barnes said. “He would have been around 90. We spent every Friday together having coffee and doughnuts. I knew his years may not be very long.”


Dee Barnes, current CEO, with Evans tool & Die founder and her grandfather, Len Evans.

Leonard Evans Jr. began his career in the 1940s, learning the tool and die trade from his uncle. As Barnes explains, the tool and die trade is an apprenticeship trade and involves five-10 years working under an experienced tool and die maker.

“It passed through my grandfather to the next generations,” Barnes said. “The second generation is officially retired, but I am so grateful for the labor of my father and my two uncles who carried on the second generation for us. My husband and I now run the third generation. We have a cousin here. Our two sons and nephew are learning the tool and die trade. We are super excited and my grandfather would be super excited to see that fourth generation.”


This photo shows the house where Evans Tool & Die got its start under the ownership of Leonard Evans Jr. and his wife, Alice.

Barnes and her husband of almost 30 years, Rodney Barnes, are the parents of Ian, 28; Joel, 25 and Olivia, 23. Their sons, along with nephew Tyler Duensing, 30, and their cousin Manda Evans Atkins all work in the family business. Barnes’ father, Ray Duensing, a former president and CEO of Evans along with her uncle, Leonard Evans III, a former vice president, both of whom are retired, continue to play an important role in the company’s future. Rodney Barnes is vice president of manufacturing; Duensing is president emeritus, and Evans is vice president emeritus.

With more than three decades in the tool and die business, Barnes has long been recognized as an industry leader. She is on the board of directors for the Georgia Association of Manufacturers. She was named the Small Business Person of the Year for 2013 in Rockdale County; is a graduate of Leadership Rockdale 2014 and is past treasurer of the executive committee for the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce. She is a past board chairman and remains on the board of the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce.

Barnes is also founder and director of His Wonderful Works Inc., a ministry designed to help churches reach out to their members and to the community. She and her family are members of Central Church in Covington. Barnes is often invited to speak at churches or other events, having recently served as the keynote speaker for the Chamber of Commerce conference “WE3 Women’s Event,” where she gave a motivational speech on sustaining positive influence.

As the oldest grandchild of Leonard and Mary Alice Evans, Barnes says she is proud of her family’s heritage and proud that since her grandfather incorporated his business on Dec. 7, 1948, Evans Tool & Die products are all made in the USA.


Leonard L. and Mary Alice Evans

“We’re definitely very proud to be made in the USA,” she said. “Our skill and quality I think can’t be matched. Because of our 75 years of experience, we have created a lot of metal parts for so many industries — every industry that needs metal parts. The electrical industry, commercial refrigeration and ATVs — all are the top three.

“We just opened our new laser cutting metal fabrication line. That’s significant because it allows us to do low-volume metal work as opposed to high volume, which is stamping. The building of a die is expensive. You need to have a lot of volume to do that. You can do low volume with metal fabrication and do any kind of shape or volume. We can now even create custom logo signs for churches and businesses with our new fiber laser.”

In addition to serving the top three of electrical, recreational and refrigeration, Evans Tool & Die Co. also sells to such industries as construction, industrial, commercial buildings, automotive, health care, home improvement, firearms, religious, fabricators, energy suppliers, heavy equipment, industrial fire extinguishers and aircraft. For additional details about the company, visit its website at www.evanstd.com.


The headquarters of Evans Tool & Die today, located at 157 North Salem Road Road in Rockdale County.

While expanding and creating American-made products are important to her, Barnes said equally important is that the company provides a good working environment for its employees. Evans Tool & Die Co. will celebrate its 75th anniversary with a special Christmas luncheon in December with giveaways and mementos for its employees and their families, community partners and clients. Some employees have been with the company for decades.

“People have to work somewhere, so why not make a good place for people to work with good benefits and a good atmosphere,” Barnes said. “It’s a ripple effect. It affects the people you do business with, the vendor, the buyer. When you have business in the U.S., it creates a positive effect for everybody. It’s so important. We feel good about impacting the economy in such a way.”

Whenever she gets a chance, Barnes enjoys joining her husband for endurance mountain bike races that can last for hours, but they also like to ride mountain bikes at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers. She said the area has been a good fit for her family’s business.

“I love doing business in Rockdale County,” she added. “It’s a business-friendly county, and I appreciate how they’ve supported local businesses.”

Barnes says she is excited about the future as the company plans to expand its laser fabrication business, as well as pursue government contracts as a woman-owned business.

“It is such a privilege to steward this manufacturing business into the fourth generation,” she said. “It’s not just four generations of our family, but also four generations of tool and die makers and metal manufacturing workers. We take satisfaction in being able to do that. It makes life and business about more than just the bottom line. We’re not just focused on today, but on a future and on generations to come and not just our family.”

Read the article on Rockdale Newton Citizen.com.

Evans Tool & Die Featured Video on Christ at Work