Nicholas Sulentic, founder of Waterloo Industries, came to America at age 15 from Yugoslovia. After landing in New York, and being taken in by a family in Illinois, he eventually moved to Waterloo, Iowa.
In Waterloo, Nicholas and his brother Pete started a grocery store in a small wooden building that had formerly been a garage. The business was so successful that the Sulentic brothers built a newer brick building starting Waterloo’s first supermarket and bakery.
Then in 1922, they built a shed behind their supermarket. In the shed they produced an automotive service tool invented by Nicholas. This new tool was called a valve spring compressor.
In those days, the valves of a car engine had to be ground about every 5,000 miles because of carbon buildup. The new invention enabled the engine mechanic to compress the valve springs for replacement in the engine block after the valve grinding job was complete.
At this time the company was called Waterloo Valve Spring Compressor Company. As automobiles evolved, the company expanded to manufacture other tools as well. These included valve lifters and the brake pedal jack. By the early 1930’s Waterloo Valve Spring Compressor Company manufactured 25 different tools. Later the company name was changed to Waterloo Industries.
Nicholas and his wife Anna raised six boys, all of whom would eventually play a role in building the family business.