'The Chicago Sun-Times David Roeder is reporting today that the long abandoned William Wrigley manufacturing complex at 35th and Ashland, after being on the market since 2009, is finally being sold at a bargain basement price.
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And again, "chewing candy" soon proved more popular than baking powder. In 1893, as people from all the world flocked to Chicago's World Columbian Exposition, Wrigley came out with both the Wrigley's Spearmint and Juicy Fruit brands. To get his display cases into retailers, he gave away knives, lamps, scales, coffee grinders and even cash registers. In 1909, Wrigley bought out the company that supplied him his gum, and began manufacturing it himself as the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company.
When a financial panic swept the country in 1907, and his competitors were slashing their marketing budgets, Wrigley took out a $250,000 loan to buy an advertising schedule that in more prosperous times would have cost $1.5 million. "Dull times are the very times when you need advertising most." By 1910, $170,000 in annual sales had skyrocketed to $3 million. By the time Wrigley died in 1932, he had spent $100 million in advertising his products.
Landmarks Commission report, over 200 companies had joined Wrigley in the CMD. Wrigley took up a large part of the 250,000 square-foot building on Ashland designed in 1911 by architect A.S. Alschuler.
During the first year in our new location, we have found it even better than originally represented. The service which has been rendered us by the Chicago Junction Railway Company in daily handling our ten to twelve incoming cars has been of the very best . . . We have affected a saving of $35,000 in the one item of cartage alone . . . The district is easily accessible from all parts of Chicago, as it indicated by the fact that of the 450 odd employees which we had at the we moved here from West Van Buren & Halsted Streets, fully 98% remained with us.
The lumps of gooey stuff drop onto conveyor belts that seem to endlessly move the gum through the stainless steel and white lab-like environment inside the six-story plant. The all-synthetic gum base is heated, matched with the appropriate flavor, spiked with a high-intensity sweetener, pushed onto a palleted merry-go-round and cooled to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
The result was Wrigley's Global Innovation Center, a 193,000 square-foot, $45,000,000 facility designed by Gyo Obata leading a team from HOK. The complex, which was certified LEEDgold in 2009, including a 40,000 square foot pilot plant for testing manufacturing processes, and a main building centered by a winter garden covered by a glass tension cabled ceiling with 540 individual panels, and 25 different species of plants from four continents, a representation of Wrigley's global reach. "This building," said Wrigley, "is a physical representation of our aspirations."
But not for long.
When the new Innovation Center and its $14 million in city subsidies were announced in 2002, then Mayor Richard M. Daley stressed that Wrigley had assured him the 35th street plant and its jobs would not be threatened by the new facility, and he was going to get it in writing. "We're still working on all of that," his then Planning and Development Commissioner Alica Berg told the Sun-Times, " but it's my understanding that it's their intention to expand their manufacturing into the space that their innovations center would be vacating."
The remaining 600 workers were shifted, offered early retirement , or laid off. In 2002, the same year the Goose Island facility was announced, Wrigley failed in a takeover of Hershey Foods, in what turned out to be its last chance to keep large enough to compete globally. In 2008, the Wrigley Company was acquired by international behemoth Mars. In January, 2010, William Wrigley, Jr., himself, was gone. For the first time in its century-long history, a Wrigley was no longer running the company In 2011, Mars dumped another 100 workers and announced its intentions to sell off the Michigan Avenue headquarters, shifting the last employees to the Goose Island facility, now the last remnant of a company that once helped define Chicago.