Goodwin Co. planned the party of a century for himself last Friday. Literally.
“I never thought this company would be 100 years old,” said Don G. Goodwingrandson of the founder, Thomas A. Goodwin.
“I’m sure my grandfather looks down on us and he would be the proudest.”
The Garden Grove-based company is a family business, now in its fifth and sixth generations.
It became a 300-employee contract manufacturer with revenues approaching $100 million a year supplying chemical blends, liquid filling and packaging, and product realization for brands such as single green, mother’s polish and Jay Leno’s Garage.
It has 500,000 square feet of industrial space in Garden Grove and near Atlanta that can store 1 million gallons and mix 60 million gallons per year.
Don T. Goodwin recently became the fifth generation president, succeeding his father, Tom Goodwin.
“It’s very rare to have a century-old family business,” Don T. Goodwin said in an interview in his Garden Grove office. “It has to do with the credibility of management. I admired my father and my grandfather. I wanted to be like them. I wanted them to be proud of me and do their thing.
“I always dreamed of following in their footsteps.”
Heritage from the 1700s
The Goodwin family traces its entrepreneurial roots to the late 1700s in Pennsylvania, with parents making shoes and furniture and running a haberdashery. In 1922, Thomas A. Goodwin moved from the Midwest with his family to live in a 1,500 square foot shed behind a restaurant called the Pink Elephant in East Los Angeles.
They made what were then called “miscellaneous items” such as window cleaners, laundry soap, and ammonia. The founder visited the family stores, took their orders, made the products, then delivered them the next day. Don G. Goodwin joined the company in 1949, a year after the death of the founder.
“After my grandfather died, the business almost died too. My father didn’t like sales,” recalls Don G. Goodwin. “We were surviving, but not much.”
In fact, Don G. found himself working other jobs in the 1950s because he wasn’t sure the family business would survive the 1950s.
“The first 40 years were pretty slow,” he said. “Our business was the size of a gas station for the first 40 years. You think, ‘What are you going to do tomorrow to keep the business running?’
In the early 1960s, the company became the first in the country to switch to selling ammonia in plastic bottles instead of glass, which customers disliked due to the risk of breakage.
“It was a game changer for us as we went from #2 or #3 in the market to #1. We became the #1 ammonia seller in the Southern California market. We doubled our sales.
Even today, says Don G., “I made so many mistakes”, especially in the marketing of products.
His grandson, current chairman Don T., will have none of it, noting that his grandfather “was third generation and business really took off under his leadership.”
In 1964, Goodwin made a major pivot by agreeing to manufacture a product called “Swipe”. This was Goodwin’s first contract manufacturing job and helped increase annual sales by 20% over the previous decade.
In 1973, the company moved to 12102 Industry St. in Garden Grove, where its square footage doubled to 47,000.
“We paid $11 a square foot — today they’re asking $350 a square foot,” Don G. said.
Immediately after opening its factory, the company was approached by Alan Rypinsky to make what became one of the flagship products of the 1970s—Armor All to clean cars.
“It was like boarding a rocket. This product took off,” Don G. said. “We were doing everything but sales. Buy raw materials, manufacture them and ship them to customers.
“It was a game changer for Goodwin Co. It put us in a completely different league. We went from $2 million to $5 million virtually overnight,” he said.
Regional product producers have lost market share over the years to large multinational brands. Goodwin therefore ended its own brand of products in 2017 to focus on contract manufacturing.
He got into making a product called DEF, or diesel exhaust fluid. Around 2009, the government required that all diesel engines, whether in trucks, trains, farm equipment or ships or farm equipment, contain a separate fuel tank to contain DEF, which is used to clean exhaust systems and remove shocks.
“DEF is a huge global market,” Don T. said. “It makes diesel trucks incredibly clean. Diesel trucks are probably cleaner than all of our cars and nobody knows that.
Goodwin spent millions building 20,000 gallon stainless steel tanks that should last 50 years, Don T.
“We build things to last so the next generation doesn’t have to foot the bill,” Don T. said. “When you think in terms of decades and generations, you can do that, rather than thinking in terms of quarters.”
The company currently manufactures 13 million gallons of DEF per year with a capacity of 25 million gallons. Railcars come into its facility every three days, making Goodwin the largest user of railcars in Orange County, said Don T.
The pandemic created its best year ever in 2020 when its like sanitizers were in high demand. Its employment reached 400 and its sales hit a record close to $90 million.
“We were able to reinvent ourselves,” Don T. said.
The company, which is owned by Don T. and his father Tom, has no plans for an IPO, nor is it seeking private equity.
At its 100th party, leaders celebrated the past and discussed the future.
Don T. wants to expand his line to include at least one product in every grocery aisle. He is installing new equipment to speed up manufacturing to try and fulfill orders at a cheaper rate than what Amazon charges.
He wants customers to have “a premium experience,” so that it is seen as a relational activity rather than a commodity-like transaction.
She spent $1.2 million on new gear this year. It has built three new departments for research, purchasing and sales, hiring 10 employees so far this year.
“This place is worth it and we’re going to invest money and people into it and we’re going to keep doing it for as long as we can.”
The key to a successful family business
In 1986, the brothers Gary and Tom Goodwin recognized an opportunity to expand Goodwin’s contract manufacturing capabilities from Armor All on the East Coast by opening facilities near Atlanta.
They approached their father, Don G. Goodwin, who was then CEO, about their plan. The father tested his sons.
“I didn’t think it was a good idea because we had all the business we could handle,” Don G. recalled. “They said to me, ‘We’ll do it with or without you. “”
This was a turning point for Don G., who realized his sons loved the business and wanted to keep it going.
“I had confidence that they had the ability because they knew the business inside out.”
Don G. finally retired in 1996 and the sons took over.
“They unlocked the prison door and now I was free. They’re going to find out what sleepless nights are and all that stuff that comes with small business.
When asked why six generations of Goodwins had worked in the business, both Goodwins said their family members had always been involved in the business and worked hard to earn a living.
“I remember when I was a kid, my dad used to drag me here on the weekends because he would weld stuff together and I would just figure out what to do here all day,” the current president said. Don T. Goodwin said.
Don T. worked on the production line while in high school and drove a forklift. When the business expanded to the East Coast, his father asked Don T. to go to Atlanta for summer work and bring his friends.
“The whole family has been involved in the business over the years,” Don G. said.
“The company has been very good to all of us. It’s my love. It has been part of my life for over 70 years. I still have feelings. »
—Peter J. Brennan