Business of the Week: Prospero Equipment Co.

GENEVA — Prospero Equipment Co. started more than 40 years ago in Westchester County when Tony Prospero bought winemaking equipment from a friend in Italy. Today, the company has six locations in North America. It installs and services equipment for wineries, breweries and distilleries — while still selling items to the home winemaker. The company’s headquarters are in Pleasantville, Westchester County. It’s there that Hammondsport native Richard Turner worked for 12 years before being tapped to open Prospero’s Geneva office in 2002 — Prospero’s third location. That office was originally located at Northrup Irr Supply on Route 14, but Prospero moved into its own quarters at 2204 Route 14 North in 2012.

The 9,000-square-foot building features office space in front, a parts area in the middle and warehouse space in the rear. In addition to Pleasantville and Geneva, Prospero also has offices in Montreal, California, British Columbia and Oregon. Turner, who says he “wears many hats,” is officially the operations manager/sales for the Geneva office. Although Prospero had Finger Lakes customers when it first arrived here in 2002, that number has tripled since then. “The winery growth up here has been unbelievable in the last 20 years,” Turner said, adding that microbreweries are also riding that wave. “New ones are popping up all the time.” Add to that cideries and distilleries and Prospero finds itself in a good location. Turner said the company likes to think of itself as “a one-stop shop” for wineries and breweries because “except for chemicals, we sell everything they need.” That could include labelers, fillers, bottling lines, tanks, harvest equipment, pumps and filters. All of the equipment Prospero sells is imported from Italy.

Large Fermentation Tanks
Wine Bottling Filler

However, Turner noted, the company sells and services its equipment throughout North America. In fact, he just returned from a trip to a North Carolina winery that was looking at buying its fourth bottling line from Prospero. The company installed a bottling line at Ancient Lake Wine Co. in Washington state that can handle 18,000 bottles an hour, along with another at Leelanau Wine Cellars in Michigan that processes 6,000 bottles an hour.

Recent jobs locally include the installation of a “massive, massive” bottle line at Beak and Skiff Orchards in Lafayette, Onondaga County, plus a line at Pleasant Valley Winery in Hammondsport that can process 400 bottles a minute.

Over the years, the equipment Prospero sells has become more computerized and automated, Turner noted. A big industry trend in the past few years has been the introduction of screw caps, which “have taken off like crazy,” he said. Prospero not only installs equipment, but services it and makes emergency calls. “We have any part for any machine,” Turner said, and a quick glance at the parts department backs up that claim, where rows upon rows of parts are stored. There are also shelves of individual bottles with notebooks below. Turner explained that the bottles are sent to Italy for custom production of bottle-handling parts.

“They need the bottle to know what sizes to make,” he said. Although much of Prospero’s work centers on larger projects for larger wineries, Turner said the company still sells equipment to home winemakers and smaller commercial wineries and breweries — and also dabbles in selling used equipment. He noted the company recently filled an order for a small tank and destemmer/crusher for a Canandaigua-area winery. “We still serve the small guy because that’s where we got our start,” he said. Winery growth is happening nationwide, not just in the Finger Lakes, Turner said. When he started with the company, there were a fair number of states that didn’t have a winery. “Now every state has a winery, even Alaska,” he said. A growing customer base plus word of mouth from customers has contributed to Prospero’s growth, Turner believes. “I like to hope our reputation for parts and service helps out also,” he said.