Rachelle Haughn interviews Chuck Imbergamo about Peck-Polymers’ golden anniversary
Rachelle Haughn | email@example.com
As seen in the Spring 2022 issue of Park Pilot.
If someone was asked to name aeromodeling companies that were in business 50 years ago and are still operating today, chances are, the list would be short. But at least one company, Peck-Polymers (wind-it-up.com), would be on that list. Although the hobby has changed throughout the years, the original owners’ goal of providing high-quality FF components has not. Under the somewhat new ownership of Chuck Imbergamo, the business has continued to thrive and has passed its 50th anniversary.
Rachelle Haughn: First off, how was Peck-Polymers formed? Who established the company?
Chuck Imbergamo: Peck-Polymers was started in 1971 in Southern California by Bob and Sandy Peck. Bob was a plastics (a type of polymer) engineer, thus the name Peck-Polymers. Bob built and flew FF (Free Flight) models, and he recognized the need for high-quality components, which are critical for a lightweight model that could be trimmed consistently and fly well. With his knowledge of engineering and molding, he developed the Peck-Polymers thrust bearings, wheels, and many other parts [that are] so important to FF models to this day! From there, it was designing great models together with his many friends who were legends in FF model aviation.
RH: When did you purchase Peck-Polymers, and what is your job title?
CI: I purchased Peck-Polymers at the beginning of 2015. I am the owner of Wind-it-up Enterprises LLC, which owns Peck-Polymers, but the question of job title is a bit funny to me because I actually do all [of] the jobs that keep the company going. That includes production, packaging, research and development, graphics, website work, purchasing, customer service, shipping, and just about everything else! Thankfully, my wife helps with the accounting, which is her strength (and not mine!) and others in the family also pitch in.
RH: What convinced you that investing in Peck-Polymers was a good idea?
CI: I knew that the parts and accessories that we manufacture were important to the FF hobby, and I was familiar with the Peck quality. I also knew how great the Peck-Polymers model designs really are. Many have shared with me that the Peck kits were the first models that they were able to make fly well, which as also my experience. These are well-engineered designs, and I knew they were worth saving. The Peck kits are so good that even I can get them to fly!
RH: How has the company changed/evolved since you came on board?
CI: This was not a turnkey business and things were a bit chaotic at first, so it was all we could do to just get our products back into production. A lot of work was required to create our packaging and produce the products, together with all the normal work needed to start a business. I am obsessed with quality, and making sure that everything is correct and that our customers [are] happy are my top priorities. Through the help of several friends, I have added a few kits to the line, and several more are in progress. Our new beginner’s model will be launched by the time this article runs!
RH: What types of products do you offer?
CI: Our core products are the Peck-Polymers line of laser-cut kits, together with our bearings, wheels, and many accessories that we make specifically for FF model builders. We offer lightweight tissue covering in 25 colors, together with a new Japanese tissue [that] we worked with our contractors in Japan to have produced. In addition, we carry tools by Excel Blades and Zona Tool, and adhesives from bSi (Bob Smith Industries).
In 2020, we partnered with Deluxe Materials to carry several of its products that we knew model builders would find useful. And, of course, we carry rubber and winders and a number of other items—all specifically for FF.
Chuck and his daughter at the 2016 FAC Nats.
RH: Is it rare for a company of this type to be able to celebrate 50 years in business?
CI: Absolutely! Peck-Polymers is one of a very, very small handful of FF companies [that] have been around so long. [It’s] proof positive that good things will always stand the test of time.
RH: What are you doing to celebrate this milestone?
CI: Last year, which was the Peck-Polymers 50-year mark, we started to hold a trivia contest to celebrate, but due to the pandemic, things remained busy throughout the year. The FAC (Flying Aces Club) was going to have a Peck-Polymers-specific contest, but the pandemic stopped most FAC flying. Hopefully this year, we can celebrate somehow—better late than never!
RH: How has the pandemic changed Peck-Polymers?
CI: We are always busy during the winter “building season,” but in early 2020, things got extra busy with an increased interest in model airplane building. I thought it would slow down when the weather got better in 2020, but with no sports on TV, many found themselves with free time and wondering what to do. That caused a resurgence in the hobby, which has not slowed down much since.
There is a lot of labor in making our full kits because they include all parts and accessories, so it has been hard to keep kits in stock. Being so busy also caused us to put several projects on hold so we could keep up with orders. Hopefully this year we will have the time to complete some more projects.
RH: What’s your history with aeromodeling?
CI: I started building plastic model airplanes when I was very young (age 6), something that would probably make most parents today cringe! I grew up near a cul-de-sac, where the older boys flew CL (Control Line) models, which I tried, but I built and flew simple rubber-powered models and gliders. I liked [them] much better [because] flying them didn’t make me dizzy.
When we moved near a school yard in the 1970s, I flew FF planes and model rockets, and watched a lot of RC airplane flying. Later, I fooled around with some RC models, mostly gliders, but my professional life and my sports activities took most of my time.
I got back into model aviation after having kids, when they were old enough to go with me to enjoy flying, and, of course, I went right back into FF. The amazing part of my story is that the local hobby shop owner sent me to [a flying site] where he said there were “several guys who flew Free Flight.”
Little did I know that I would meet Dave Stott and Bob Thompson, the founders of the FAC, together with Paul Stott, Mark Fineman, Vance Gilbert, Ed Novak, the Nallens, and many other experts in FF. That was more important than I realized—not only would these guys help and teach me, but years later, one of them told me that Peck-Polymers was up for sale. And the rest, as they say, is history!