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April 21, 2015 at 02:29pm
Family-Owned St. Paul, Minnesota Based Company Provides Equipment and Supplies to Laundries and Dry Cleaners throughout the Upper Midwest
SAINT PAUL, MN - The Minnesota Chemical Company will celebrate its 100th anniversary this May – a milestone that is even more amazing considering that the company is still owned and actively managed by the same family that established it in 1915. Now, a century later, the company has grown to provide a full range of equipment and supplies to dry cleaners and commercial, institutional and coin-operated laundries throughout the Upper Midwest.
That family ownership began with R.P. Baker, who founded the company in 1915 in the Midway area of Saint Paul with several other immigrants from Ireland. The company initially focused on supplying local customers with a variety of soaps and cleaning compounds that the company made in a small building at 2207 Wycliff Avenue.
The Minnesota Chemical Company founders were originally attracted to the Midway area in St. Paul for two reasons - proximity to the Minnesota Transfer Railroad’s hub and the presence of meat processing plants in the area. The plants provided a critical component in soap manufacturing - beef tallow. The Minnesota Chemical Company at that point was manufacturing soap and distributing its products to creameries, laundries and dry cleaners.
Except for a move to a larger building in 1937 that was just a block down the street from the company’s first location, Minnesota Chemical Company has been in the “Midway Transfer” area for a century.
The expansion was fueled in large part by the increasing popularity of Minnesota Chemical Company products. The company was selling cleaning compounds and soaps throughout an eight-state area in the Midwest by the late 1920s.
After R.P. Baker passed away suddenly in 1943, the second generation of Bakers took over the company – sons, Robert, Dan and John Baker. The three had all been involved in the company in company – sons, Robert, Dan and John Baker. The three had all been involved in the company in key management roles prior to the outbreak of World War II. Dan had been sales manager, John was plant manager; and Robert was a specialty salesman.
Within a decade, the “Baker boys” had moved the company away from manufacturing soap and instead refocused the company on distributing national brands of laundry and dry cleaning supplies and equipment.
In 1952, they opened a sales office and warehouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1962, an equipment sales and service office was added in Waverly, Iowa. In 1985, the “Baker boys” retired together, transitioning the company to their sons – the new “Baker boys” – Mike (John’s son), Steve and Dan (Robert’s two sons). And a fourth generation of Bakers – Mike’s son James – is now working for the company.
Now, a century after being established in St. Paul, Minnesota as a local company of cleaning supplies and soaps, the Minnesota Chemical Company provides laundry and dry cleaning supplies and equipment to customers in Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. The company's supply and equipment sales staff and parts and service department serve dry cleaners and industrial, institutional, commercial and coin-operated laundries.
To read more from our Centennial blog, click here.