History of GARR TOOL

An International Success Story Backed by Character


“The human side is really critical to us. That’s part of my role: to pass on that sense of integrity, work ethic, and making sure others truly feel valued.”

— John Leppien, Sr.



“Employees feel a sense of stability and consistency in their jobs here. The longevity is attractive to people. Employees are very loyal to the company, and they are treated well.”

Human Resources Director


“I started here on my 18th birthday. The ownership has adopted me and treated me like a family member ever since. It truly is a family here.”

— GARR TOOL Employee of 39 Years


GARR TOOL has changed dramatically over the course of its existence, beginning as a one-man company and slowly growing into a world leading manufacturer of high performance carbide cutting tools.

Through it all, a few things have remained the same: the core values and founding principles that have made GARR TOOL what it is today.


In the spring of 1944, Fred Leppien founded GARR TOOL as a regional regrind tool company in his garage in Saginaw, Michigan. He named the company after his wife and daughters: Gertrude, Aleta, Rosemary, and Roberta.

His brother, Clarence, became a partner in the early 1950s. When Fred’s son, John Leppien Sr., joined the team in 1967, there were only six employees, and Fred was the only salesman.

The business grew quickly due to its standards of efficiency. At the time of Fred’s passing at the age of 59, GARR TOOL still consisted of only 11 employees. Clarence then retired in 1980 and sold his ownership in the business to John, who became president in 1981.

One move that changed the company significantly was the decision to begin working through industrial distributors rather than selling direct.  In 1985, GARR acquired its first CNC machine, becoming one of the first businesses in the industry with this capability. Many other dynamic changes continued to occur from 1986 to the mid-1990s, when GARR TOOL’s main product became the end mill, although it also specialized in manufacturing drills, reamers, and routers, as it continues to do.

Today, GARR TOOL is considered one of the leading manufacturers of carbide round tools in the nation and is highly respected as a leader in the industry around the world. GARR TOOL has approximately 150 employees, and it manufactures more than 14,000 tools per day at its 200,000-square-foot facility in Alma, Michigan. Products are sold in virtually every state and region in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and GARR TOOL has distributors in approximately 35 countries outside of North America.

GARR TOOL’s leaders say the business’s growth was due to a combination of the decision to go through distributors, investing in and owning capital equipment, having a large amount of inventory in stock, unprecedented customer service, maintaining quality relationships, and hiring the right people.

And all of this is what makes GARR TOOL stand out among the rest.


What has driven GARR TOOL’s success is the fact that distributors and end users trust the products, value the excellent customer service, and know they will get what they need with speed and efficiency. When people contact GARR TOOL, they speak with a real person, and they appreciate having a reliable resource when they need it. It’s what keeps them coming back, and it led to and continues to drive GARR TOOL’s success.

GARR TOOL also is considered one of the very best employers in and around Gratiot County, Michigan. They are constantly looking for talented, qualified people to join the team, many of whom have worked with GARR TOOL for more than 30 years.

The human side of the business remains critical to the leaders of the business. John Leppien Sr.’s goal is to ensure that GARR TOOL’s legacy of integrity and valuing employees, distributors, and end users is carried on through its staff and managers, who today also consist of John’s sons, John II and Jeff, as vice presidents.

GARR TOOL will continue to focus on this sense of preservation of staff and relationships with distributors and end users. So while products and management may change with time at GARR TOOL, a few things will stay the same: quality products, a focus on integrity, and knowing the value of a human connection.

This is what makes GARR TOOL stand out in the industry – intrinsic values and a history that simply can’t be duplicated or outdone. It’s what GARR TOOL is all about, and it’s why you need GARR TOOL over all others.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
image description