Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Four Buildings and a Funeral - Wrigley: The Architecture that Remains after a Great Company Dies

'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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William Wrigley, Jr. came to Chicago from his native Philadelphia to sell the soap manufactured by his father's company.   The young Wrigley was a born salesman, but his job was made difficult by the fact that the nickel price for a box of soap left retailers little profit.  So Wrigley convinced Dad to double the price of the soap to give stores a heftier share of the take.  Wrigley Jr's sales mantra was "Everybody likes something extra, for nothing."  And so he purchased 65,000 cheap red umbrellas as a free incentive for buying a box of soap.  When the umbrellas ran out, Wrigley turned to baking powder as the premium.  When he found people liked the baking powder better the soap, he dumped the soap, and looked for a premium to help sell the baking powder.

He hit upon the idea of chewing gum, produced from spruce bark and originally used by Native Americans to freshen their breath.  The problem was, however, that the taste evaporated after a couple of minutes of chewing, so Wrigley did some research and hit upon the idea of substituting chicle, from sapodilla trees, up until them used primarily in making rubber.

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.
In 1912, Wrigley bought 4-and-a-half acres of land at 35th and Ashland, part of a revolutionary new 400 acre Central Manufacturing District, formed to provide business for the Chicago Junction Railway, which had added capacity far beyond the needs of its original client, Chicago's Union Stockyards.  By 1915, according to a Chicago 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.
Behind it, in 1913, he erected his own six-story, 175,000 square-foot factory, designed by the firm of Postle and Fisher.  In a book promoting the CMD, among the numerous other testimonials, there's a letter from Wrigley's Industrial Agent H.E. Poronto:
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.
 
 At that time, 48% the city's population lived within a four-mile radius of the CMD.
Down through the decades, Wrigley became a global force in gum,.  Employment at the factory peaked at 1,700 in the 1960's, but even as late as 2001, the CMD plant was still the company's largest, with a thousand employees working in three shifts turning out 30,000 cases of gum a day.  Reported the Sun-Times' Sandra Guy:
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.
 By that time, the company was being run by the 37-year-old great-grandson of William Wrigley, Jr, strangely enough, also named William Wrigley, Jr.  Wrigley had lost big with $17 million investment in Flip Flipkowski's high-tech incubator company Divine, Inc, which burned through a billion dollars in cash by the time the dot.com bubble burst.  Flipkowski has lined up $14 million in city subsidies for a corporate headquarters at the Northwest corner of Goose Island.  He never collected, but the city then offered a $15 million tax subsidy for Wrigley to take over and develop the site.
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."
Daley never got that promise in writing, and one month after the opening of the Global Innovation Center, Wrigley announced they were closing the south side plant in December of that year.  225 employees moved over to the Goose Island facility; the rest lost their jobs.  "While this is a difficult decision for me personally, we would not be making this choice if we did not believe that this change was absolutely necessary for the long-term vitality of our company," said Bill Wrigley Jr.  "We value our deep roots in the city of Chicago, even as our business and our workforce continue to change," he said in a statement.

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.
In 2009, Wrigley hired CB Richard Ellis to sell off the 1.3 million square-foot, 30 acre complex. For nearly three years, there were no takers, until this week.  David Roeder is reporting in the Sun-Times that the original asking price was about $19 million, but the actual sale price wound up being closer to 5. What was once one of the manufacturing powerhouses of Chicago is essentially being sold for scrap.
 


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bill Wrigley Jr. is a pig!!!! I hope he can sleep at night, him and his upper management made lots of money and sold their employees (who made them all that money) down the river. His father and grandfather must be rolling over in their graves. How proud you must be Bill Wrigley, I hope you get everything that's coming to you.pht

Anonymous said...

Bill Wrigley Jr. is your typical 1%er!He did not care about his employees only more profit.He moved the manufacturing facility out of Chicago to places like Yorkville Il.,Gainesville Ga.and Mexico because of employees wages and benefits are lower there.It's all about the money!Not the employees!Greed!

Anonymous said...

Bill Wrigley Jr. is a snake

Anonymous said...

It is really sad what Bill Jr. did to that company and it's employees. I hope that someday he will realize how many people he hurt with his greed....but I truly doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Honestly Bill JR. could care less how many people he hurts. What you need to understand is that it was all given to him, he never worked for anything. I guess you could say he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.The only person he cares about is himself.

Anonymous said...

What you have to understand is it was not only Bill Jr., who sold us out.What the Great Mars!! co. who told us nothing but lies then kicked us out in the streets when the economy was at its worst, one solution would be to spread the word and boycott all Wrigley and Mars products, it might not matter much but its a start. NO LOYALTIES ITS ALL ABOUT GREED!!! HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH.But like you said Bill JR. and all the Mars family had it all handed to them so why would they care about us.

Anonymous said...

Like they say, your more likely to fit a camel through the eye of a needle, then see a rich person in heaven!
Let them (Bill Jr. & Mars) enjoy their money. In the end they will have to answer for their GREED!

Anonymous said...

Bill Wrigley Jr should change his name he is not a Wrigley who took care of his people for all those yrs.he is a bum

Anonymous said...

Mars isn't any better than Wrigley once you reach the ripe old age of 50 they are looking to usher you out the door. Look at what they did to all of the past Wrigley employees that went to work at the distribution center in Romeoville.

Anonymous said...

Every comment posted is true. I am one, who too was a dedicated employee only to be treated like yesterdays garbage. We can only remember the wonderful times when Mr. Wrigley was alive. May he rest in peace. As for Bill Jr. his money won't last long, he doesn't have what it takes to be successful, I believe he's already proven that.

Anonymous said...

I will never buy a Wrigley or MARS product again. Everyone spread the word, Boycott all of these products... By the way, Wrigley I hope your fater and Grandfathers kick your @^%#$ in heaven even tho you don't belong there

Anonymous said...

Typical greedy bastard! Wrigley Jr. was incompetant. He sold us all out so that he could re-coup part of his bad investments in Devine Interventions. He bought the Goose Island property with corporate Wrigley funds so that he could put some of that money back into his own pocket. On top of it all he hired the most scumy indian snake charming management team to give everyone the impression that his new Innovation Center was top notch. I think he fooled Mars but his actions left a bloated Innovation organization full of yes men and marginal business sharks. A core group of 40 chemists and engineers that ushered in sugarfree gum, sugarfree pellets and supported both European and Asian factory expansions were marginallized by a large group of Indian kok skrs and lackeys that still squirm around sucking the life blood out of the few of us that remain at the Goose Island facility and actually contributed to the companies growth in the past! Jr. is a scum bag!

Anonymous said...

Watch out for the land immediately east of that factory. Billy Boy Jr. or maybe senior bought that in the early 2000's for possible reconstruction of the Chicago facory. Those plans were never implemented. Rumors were that it was a severely contaminated site requiring a lot of expense for clean up. Maybe that explains the closing of the facility. The existing factory buildings are very old and also loaded with asbestos particularly in the electrical distribution panels and sub stations. 5 million may sound like a bargain but I think Wrigley may have dropped a turd into your pockets.