When Thomas C. Dante was working as a thoroughbred racehorse trainer in the late 1950s, little could he know that one day his grandchildren would carry on one of his most enduring legacies—running a family business. In 2020, Dante Valve, the company that bears his name, crosses a celebratory milestone to reach its 60th anniversary as a privately held, family-run company.
Today, Dante Valve manufactures and distributes military-speciﬁcation pressure relief Danco valves, a company founded by Dante Valve in 1983 and later merged under the Dante umbrella. They are also a factory-authorized loose assembler for Kunkle Valve safety relief valves and industrial products, a distributor of TRAC automatic pressure and temperature regulators, and a distributor of fittings and ﬂanges for Navy and commercial uses. They now employ more than 55 full-time staﬀ across 3 locations, all thanks to what Tom and his wife Angie started 60 years ago.
Living in Arcadia in Southern California, Tom founded Dante Valve in 1960, with his home garage serving as its oﬃce and headquarters. At that time, California’s industries such as aerospace, oil, electronics, tourism and the entertainment business were booming, and by 1964 California was the largest state. Dante Valve soon became a family aﬀair as sons Mike and Chuck joined their father in the company. As third-generation president, Lisa Dante Papini, Chuck’s daughter, now leads the company, working with Chuck and Mike and her cousin Matt, Mike’s son.
“My Grandpa was ambitious, a tireless worker, and was wholly dedicated to whatever he put his mind to, be it Dante Valve, his family or his racehorses. Those qualities have been instilled in all of us,” shared Lisa.
After years in a small warehouse, Dante Valve moved in 1975 to a new facility in Bellﬂower, California, with more than 30,000 square feet of manufacturing, warehouse and oﬃce space. Dante Valve initially distributed valves built by other companies but in 1980 saw a need in the military-specification relief valve market and began manufacturing themselves.
“At that time, the manufacturers in this space were slow to respond and build, and their prices were extremely high. The Navy was not well-served” reﬂected Chuck. “My Dad, Mike and I knew that we could outperform so we launched Danco Valve and started to make our own,” said Chuck.
Winning business, especially with customers at the caliber of the U.S. Navy, was no easy task for a new, but growing, business. Quality controls had to be perfect. The needs of a customer of this magnitude and scope that was producing the U.S. military’s precision ﬂeet were complicated and interdependent on many factors and other suppliers. Chuck spent years touring Navy shipyards, building relationships and demonstrating the company’s new relief valves, usually carrying them in his luggage across the country.
Today, the company’s Danco pressure relief valves are installed across all U.S. Navy vessels, including Nimitz and Ford class aircraft carriers, Arleigh Burke and Zumwalt class destroyers, San Antonio class amphibious transport dock assault ships, America class amphibious helicopter landing assault ships, and Virginia and Columbia class submarines.
“This was really pulling the company up by our bootstraps, proving our value and quality in the market, meeting customers face to face, and always being available to ﬁll a customer’s need,” commented Lisa. “My dad was persistent and extremely hardworking, just like his dad taught him to be. This was a key period of Dante Valve that really helped grow the company.”
Another signiﬁcant growth phase occurred in 2004 when Dante Valve partnered with Northrop Grumman Newport News to implement Lean Manufacturing. Over the next year, the “Above the Shop Floor” initiative transformed Dante Valve. In 2005, Dante Valve opened a second location, a 50,000 square foot oﬃce and plant close to Newport News in Norfolk, Virginia, and brought on industry expert Charlie Smith to run the East Coast operations. With the addition of the Virginia facility, Dante Valve could conduct functional testing on all types and sizes of pressure relief valves on both coasts and was better positioned to serve customers.
“Dante Valve expanded the service to the East Coast, which I think was one of the good moves they made to serve more customers near the shipyards,” shared Sonny Tran, vice president, Fenico Precision Casting. “On behalf of the Fenico team and as a vendor, I am very happy to see Dante Valve continue to grow and expand the business every year through diﬀerent generations. We are so proud to be part of the Dante Valve team that we work with and grow together in the industry.”
The Dante Valve name has a reputation for excellence in the industry, and each member of the Dante Valve team continues the traditions and values of the company: quality, service and responsibility.
For nearly 15 years, Dante Valve and Danco Valve have worked with Hyspan Precision Products, a key product vendor. “We are glad to state that we look forward to Dante Valve phone calls,” commented Ed Pentico, director of sales and product development, Hyspan. “They have consistently embodied a considerate, respectful and professional business demeanor. We look forward to many more years together.”
Kristine Landers has been with Dante Valve for 16 years working as a program manager. “Dante Valve’s values mean that we stand behind our products and support our customers in any way we can,” she said. “In working with the Navy, we often receive urgent requests for products due to a system being down in the field. We do whatever we can to provide the product they need as quickly as we can.”
Current U.S. business sources report that nearly 70 percent of family-owned businesses fail or are sold before they are passed on to the second generation, and only 10 percent are actually around by the third generation and still in the family. “This year I personally celebrated 50 years with Dante Valve,” shared Mike. “It’s the dedication of my father, my brother and me building something from scratch that got us oﬀ the ground. And now it’s really something to be working alongside the next generation of Dantes to keep it viable and growing for our customers and partners.”
Over the years, Dante Valve has held long-term and valued partner relationships with the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, Bath Iron Works, Newport News Shipbuilding, Ingalls Shipbuilding, Hyspan Precision Products, TRAC Regulator, Arizona Castings, Suhm Spring Works, Triman Industries, W&O Supply and others, all of which are key to their longevity and ability to successfully deliver quality products.
“Triman’s long-term, valued partnership with Dante Valve has proven time and time again to be a positive and successful experience,” said Kathy Reynolds, vice president of sales and supplier management, Triman Industries. “The Dante Valve team is consistently diligent, professional and a true pleasure to work with.”
“We appreciate very much that Dante has picked Suhm as a supplier,” shared Mark Scarborough, president, Suhm Spring Works. “We continue to strive to keep the relationship strong. Thanks for the loyalty that you guys have shown us, and we hope we can be a continuing part of your success for years to come!”
The Dante family business model centers on exceeding customer needs and requests, while developing and recognizing their long-tenured and close-knit staﬀ. “Working at this family-run business has made me feel like I’m part of their family,” shared Kristine. “They are a very generous and understanding family, which is hard to find during one’s career.”
In looking at their strategic priorities in the years ahead, Dante Valve plans to keep their focus on these key areas: exceeding customer expectations, quality and timely product and service delivery, safe and eﬃcient processes and manufacturing procedures, and the use of technologies to advance those processes and procedures.
“Chuck Dante, Lisa (Dante) Papini, Charlie Smith, Ed, Kristine, Rebecca, Reina-Marie and many others have all been great to work with,” shared Michael Dutko, project engineer, TRAC Regulator Co. “We appreciate their expertise and their willingness to assist us here at TRAC with any issues or problems we may have. All have demonstrated an expertise in their fields and a commitment to add value to the vendors and customers they serve.”
“Dante’s innovation and desire to improve their offerings to their customers has resulted in additional business for us,” said Debby Christian, vice president of operations, Arizona Castings. “Employees like Jesse, Pedro and Benjamin, and their dedication to doing the best possible job for their employer, shows in the attitude in which they do business and how they talk about their jobs. This relationship within their company speaks to Dante being a family. The employees are committed to quality and on-time delivery to their customers, all while being honest in their dealings and dedicated to making Dante Valve a preferred company to do business with for us.”
For most U.S. small businesses, 2020 will be a year not soon forgotten. As an essential business within the critical manufacturing infrastructure and defense industrial base, Dante Valve has remained operational throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety measures were implemented in early March and policies and procedures changed to secure workplace, employee, customer and partner safety.
As they look ahead, the Dante Valve community knows they have much to be grateful for, namely the founder’s vision, his work ethic and his close family ties. So, as this 60th anniversary milestone year ends, Dante Valve takes this moment to reﬂect on all who have helped make it possible.
Dante Valve is grateful to all current and retired employees and is immensely appreciative of how much the Dante Valve team has accomplished over these years together. The Dante Valve family comes together to celebrate each and every one of those individuals, partners and customers who contributed to the history and success of this 60-year-old company. Dante Valve looks forward to excelling in the innovations of the future and oﬀering exceptional service and world-class product to all our customers and partners.
Happy 60th anniversary, Dante Valve!