CSP History

History of Clamp-Swing Pricing Company

Could You Please Spell That?

There was a time when it wasn’t necessary to spell our name. It was a trademarked descriptor that accurately reflected our unique product line. David Garfinkle had created a minor revolution in the 1920’s in the price marking field with his “Clamp-Swing Price Card Holders.” In 1924, he became disenchanted with the price tags purchased for his small grocery store, an outgrowth of the fruit stand started with his brother in 1913 in Alameda, California. The price card holder was a rigid metal unit that displayed the price directly in front of the product. It was attached to the wooden shelf with a staple or thumbtack. Unfortunately, there is sometimes a gap between the intentions of the design and the reality of application. These price tags often landed on the floor when customers pulled the merchandise off the shelf. This lead to embarrassment and confusion of all concerned.

There Must Be A Better Way

Frustration often being the motivation for invention, David Garfinkle put his creative talents to work and developed a mock–up of his own design. His invention incorporated a metal card holder hinged to a metal clamp, which attached to the shelf and suspended the price in front of the product. When the customer pulled the merchandise off the shelf, the card holder swung easily out of the way. With the encouragement of a tool and die maker and the aid of Scientific America patent attorneys in nearby San Francisco, Clamp–Swing Pricing Co. was started in a two–story brick building across the street from the store. US Patent 1,572,994, his first of five, was filed August 5, 1924 and granted in 1926.

The swinging tags were sold world–wide for the next 15 years.

It’ll Never Work.

With a manufacturing facility firmly established, experiments with new ideas continued. David felt, for instance, that it would be desirable to produce a more durable price tag than the paper tags in use. By 1935, the availability of plastic intrigued him as a substitute. His initial attempt with this new material was a nightmare – a solid brick of plastic resulted as the thin sheets dried and stuck to each other. His son Wil, then a chemical engineering student at the University of California, was pressed into service and successfully figured out a way to separate the sheets. Never one to be deterred by problems, David devised a satisfactory drying system. The DuPont plastics salesman was still not convinced that printing on plastic was a proper use for his product but it was to his advantage to lose that argument as his commissions grew with the introduction of our plastic Shelf Tags and Meat and Produce Celotags.

Three People, Three Shifts.

In 1941, the government needed people to fight a war. They also needed “Point” and “Limit” price tags for their rationing program. David Garfinkle, with his daughter–in–law Wilma, and his lone remaining employee Alfred Ornellas, ran production on 16 hour overlapping shifts. Like the war itself, the presses never seemed to stop. When peace came, business returned to normal, and the Company began expanding its line. Wil joined the Company in 1946 and was responsible for developing relationships with other companies to distribute related products.

Time to Move

When the Company started, the paper price tags were printed by a local commercial printing and typesetting company. After several years, David bought his own press and set up shop next door so he could continue to use their typesetting services.

This proved to be fortuitous when the main building was gutted by an electrical fire in 1956. The inventory in the print shop enabled the Company to fill orders for several months. By coincidence, the Company was preparing to move before the fire stuck. Another two–story brick building in Alameda was purchased in 1954 and the renovation of it was accelerated after the fire, so we could quickly move in. The old location for printing was maintained until 1976 when a warehouse across the street from the new building was purchased.

Throughout this period, we primarily continued to serve the signing needs of the regional retailers, which included prominent names in the industry such as Safeway, Lucky, Raley’s, Save–Mart, Fry’s and Longs Drugs. With very close ties to Safeway’s engineering department across the street from their Oakland Corporate Headquarters, we developed several important products for the new technology of “bar code scanning”. We made the first double peg scan hooks for their first scanning store in 1974, created a Deli Moulding system for packaged meats and cheese, and a scannable stand with a label holder for coffin style freezer cases.


David Garfinkle “retired” in 1979, three years after his grandson, Ben, joined the family business. David had devoted 55 of his 87 years to Clamp–Swing. He only reduced his workload due to failing health, and remained active in the company business until his death on December 16, 1979.

New Ideas

Wil assumed the position of Chairman of the Board and Ben was named the President of the Company in 1981. Together they continued to manage the family business. The 1980’s saw the introduction of several patented products, many of which are still in vogue today:

  • FrameWork® Modular Sign Holders
  • DoubleTalk® Price Tags for viewing the PLU information from the backside
  • View-Lok® adjustable Tag Holders and Attachments
  • CeloGraphics®
  • DeliGraphics®
  • Fresh Facts® Nutrition Tags

It was also the first time we developed a national sales strategy. We hired our first National Sales Manager, Bob Reese, who left a competitor to join us in 1983. And, we exhibited at the Food Marketing Institute's (FMI) annual convention for over 10 consecutive years where we started developing relationships across the country that we continue to serve today.

In the 1990’s, the Deli Moulding for hanging meats and cheese was improved upon to create the SpaceSaver® II Baffle System that incorporated energy efficiency and food safety benefits into the product. The FrameWorks System underwent a major overhaul to feature snap–together parts and a unique adjustable stem.

Near the end of the decade, Wil retired. His first stroke suffered in 1986 was followed by several more over the next 15 years. Never one to complain, he showed up for work every day until he was in his 80’s. While he was too weak to be physically active in his later years, he remained mentally active in the Company’s affairs for the rest of his life. He died on November 14, 2007 at the age of 90.

Time to Moveā€¦again

Forty-five years after the last move, Clamp-Swing left the island of Alameda that had been home for 77 years. In a newly renovated building near the Oakland Airport, the Company reopened for business in January 2001. New products developed in the 10 years since the move include:


The practice of dedicating company catalogs or websites is considered unusual by most standards. But then we have had some unusual people who had the vision to create something from nothing and those who enabled us to keep the lights on through wars, depressions, strikes and recessions:

To all who knew David Garfinkle, he was a unique individual. With courage and determination, he withstood the ridicule of many associates who were unable to comprehend his abandoning a successful grocery store on the speculation of selling “price tags”. Today he would be called an entrepreneur or visionary. He conceived this company and nurtured it. He dedicated his life to it. Now we honor him for what he created.

Wil Garfinkle, David and Diana's eldest child, was the first of his generation to graduate from college. He picked up his father’s torch and provided the guidance to keep us moving forward. His father's rough Eastern European temperament was replaced with his own easy going ways. He would do anything to take care of a customer, regardless of size or the potential payoff. His wife Wilma, besides raising four boys during the halcyon days of the post war period, became the Company bookkeeper until she retired in the 1980’s.

Over the years, several key employees have emerged that deserve recognition:

Al Ornellas was listed in the handwritten Company ledger books as a “temporary” employee in 1928. He retired 53 years later in 1981. Trained as a hardwood floor installer, he was a master craftsman who could do anything he was called to do in the factory and do it in half the time as anyone else. And it was always done right.

Laura Martinelli was hired after she graduated from Alameda High School in 1948. Clamp–Swing was the only place she ever worked and she was the only employee to work in all three locations. She started in the factory and later moved into the office where she was the billing clerk for over 30 years. She retired in 2004 after 56 years with the Company.

Austin Thurman grew up in Tennessee with only a grade school education but he was a 3–dimensional genius. Beginning in 1982, he headed up the Tool & Die Department for 15 years. He built most of the new stamping dies and assembly machines during this key period as we rapidly expanded with new products.

When Bob Reese was hired in 1983, he said he would only work 2 years so he could retire at 65 and collect Social Security. When he left the Company in 1998 he was 78. He played a major role in transitioning us from a regional supplier for Northern California companies, to a national one today. After his retirement, Bob continued to check in regularly to see how we were doing. He remained a good friend (and good golfer) until his death in 2010 at age 89.

The Company salutes these people and those who have contributed to our success over the last 87 years.

Clamp-Swing Pricing Co.
8386 Capwell Drive, Oakland, CA 94621

V: (800) 227-7615 • (510) 567-1600
F: (510) 567-1830