More than 40 years ago, a star was born in downtown Guntersville, but it wasn’t George Kappler’s face that would grace the silver screen. It was his state-of-the-art suits.
Since April 1, 1976, Kappler has become one of the nation’s leading developers and manufacturers of chemical protective gear, but the company’s start-up and eventual success came with a lot of doubt – especially from Kappler’s parents.
“It’s funny because he said they called him a fool for trying to start it all,” said Laura Kappler-Roberts, George’s daughter and current president of Kappler. “And the company was officially started on April Fools’ Day.”
The “foolish” decision eventually led Kappler’s suits to play a small role in a few science-fiction movies like “Mimic,” “Spy Kids” and most recently “Arrival.” Kappler-Roberts said it’s a unique feeling to see their suits on the big screen.
“It is cool,” Kappler-Roberts said. “You don’t think about that aspect of things, because our products tend to get a lot of attention when something bad happens. But, to take your product out of that scenario and into one that’s fun, you’re just proud. It’s a different audience seeing what you do. It’s neat.”
But, while the spectacle of Kapper’s gear in the bright lights is one of a kind, Kappler-Roberts said it pales in comparison to the leading role it plays in the real world.
With many different fabric combinations constructed to combat dangerous chemicals, Kappler-Roberts said the industry is equipped to meet anyone’s protective needs both near and far. They design and manufacture protective suits for health professionals, military units, local first responders and many more.
“My dad’s background is chemistry, not business or making suits, but it was really a natural fit,” Kappler-Roberts said. “Because, when he started to learn more about the types of people that use the garments, he realized what the white paper suits were doing was protecting them from the dirt, grease and grime, which was a hazard in a solid form. But, when he started learning more and more about the in-use, he realized hazards also come in liquids and vapors, and that started an evolution of increasing the level of protection with different fabric and seaming technology.”
The company’s mission is “to keep the bad stuff off of people,” and Kappler-Roberts said they work to live out that statement everyday by remembering the importance of their job through the testimonies of customers.
“Look at these people and the scenarios they are choosing to put themselves in,” Kappler-Roberts said. “These first responders, military personnel, I mean what guts and bravery – Sheer selflessness. To know that we are contributing to help them do their job successfully and safely, I can’t think of anything better in how fulfilling that is. These people have families to go home to and reinforcing that to our employees helps them not get complacent.”