For more than 70 years, Nashua has been home to W.H. Bagshaw Company, a family-run manufacturing business that dates back to an 1870 origin in nearby mill town Lowell, Mass. The oldest pin makers in America, W.H. Bagshaw also manufactures high precision, Swiss-style CNC turned parts. It’s unlikely that 150 years ago, founder Walter H. Bagshaw would imagine his heirs would not only thrive with his original business, but grow and expand in new directions.
Their latest venture is the Walter Bat Company – named for their immigrant entrepreneur ancestor and housed in their same W.H. Bagshaw manufacturing site at 1 Pine Street extension, in Nashua’s historic mill district. A formal ribbon cutting was held June 25.
Husband-and-wife owners Aaron and Adria Bagshaw – Aaron is Walter’s great-great-grandson – discovered the new business opportunity in an organic way. And, in keeping with the family-business vibe, it was because of their son.
“Our son loves baseball, and had Ariel Ramos as a pitching coach,” Adria Bagshaw told us. “He does one-on-one training, and for the Nashua Silver Knights (Nashua’s summer, wood-bat baseball team competing in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League of New England). Ariel had an additional baseball bat business, but let us know he was looking to sell that equipment.”
Ramos’ business, Gryphon Bats, offered custom, premium, hardwood bats for more than a decade. Turning wood into bats uses the same concept as the process of turning metal into components, leveraging the extensive skill set of W.H. Bagshaw’s manufacturing personnel while providing an opportunity for the machinists to be more hands-on and creative. The acquisition was a perfect fit.
Kyan Bagshaw shows off his form and Walter Bat Company swag.
ABOVE Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) is seen, center, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony June 25, 2021, for new business Walter Bat Company. She is flanked by Aaron and Adria Bagshaw, owners – as well as a cardboard nod to the family business founder, Walter H. Bagshaw.
ABOVE: Limited-edition Walter Bat Company bats – WB71 Bomb Pop, made from ash, and WB71 Uncle Sam, in maple.
ABOVE: Billets of wood that have been ‘”turned,” on their way into becoming baseball bats.
After 2–3 weeks of training with Ramos and a lot of their own research, W.H. Bagshaw was ready for the new venture – selecting and grading wood and its types, understanding weight, etc. Their decades of business acumen made things easier. “We understand quality control, purchasing, machining and programming,” Bagshaw says. “And we were pleasantly surprised to discover the opportunities for our employees to show off their creativity. There was lots of brainstorming on fun options, trial and error. I’m thrilled to give people something new to do, with a different part of their brain.”
She goes on to say that W.H. Bagshaw is always looking for opportunities to grow and expand, in general – e.g., they acquired an icepick business from a customer who asked them to take over. “We made the blades, and he bought handles in Maine and had them assembled in Minnesota. We can do all that in-house,” Bagshaw said, “so that was nice to have additional work for our employees.”
Not that they needed it. In a year that often spelled disaster, closings and layoffs for many other small businesses, W.H. Bagshaw was incredibly busy in 2020, manufacturing ventilator parts to address the pandemic. The company was honored at this year’s Eminence Awards by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, as Small Business of the Year, for their contributions to helping frontline workers combat COVID-19. “We’ve held onto everyone – in fact, we went from 35 employees in 2019 to 45 in 2020, hiring 10 machinists to meet ventilator demand,” Bagshaw said. “We were able to keep everyone busy.”
The Walter Bat Company hand-selects premium woods of maple, birch, and ash, sourced from the northeastern United States and Canada. Each wood has its advantages as a baseball bat – ash is flexible, maple is harder and denser, birch acts like a hybrid of the two. The raw material wood, called billets, are turned, sanded, and finished by hand.
The bats are hand-painted in a spray booth, and depending on the model, engraved or affixed with vinyl decals and stenciling. One lovely touch is that the name “Walter” replicates Walter Bagshaw’s own signature from his U.S. naturalization documents, dated 1878.
In addition to providing bats to local youth, recreation and semi-pro teams and leagues for play, Walter Bat Company also crafts commemorative award or trophy bats, limited edition bats, and custom bats made to customer specifications.
From top, student athletes Davey Rieth and Nick Wilson, class of 2021 at Souhegan High School.
Some of the high school athlete models seen on their website received their own year-end gift bats from the company, as they graduated Souhegan High School this year. Bagshaw mentions that these would also make great coach gifts and holiday gifts as well. “Players really enjoy having their own personalized bats for BP (batting practice), with their own colors, names engraved, etc.,” she said.
The burgeoning new enterprise also offers other related items, like athlete apparel and even fun candles with scents like Opening Day (leather, grass, dirt) and Baseball Mom (lavender, green tea, grass). Bagshaw sends out an appreciative nod to another local small business, Mint Printworks, for partnering with them on logo design and swag item development.
Walter Bat Company is holding an info event before the Nashua Silver Knights game this Friday, July 9, demo’ing the bats and showing their other merchandise; local AU youth teams and the public are invited to stop by their table to learn more about custom baseball bats for the slugger in your life!