Home Back Issues April 2012 Only whisk factory in U.S.

Only whisk factory in U.S.

| Print |  Email
Articles - April 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012


Above: President John Merrifield wields a 3-foot whisk.
Below: Merrifield and his son, Kyle, at the Best Manufacturers whisk factory in Portland.
// Photos by Alexandra Shyshkina

Even in food savvy Portland, few residents know their city is home to the only whisk factory in the United States: Best Manufacturers. In 1950, there were four domestic whisk manufacturers, says Best president John Merrifield, a second-generation owner whose family bought the company in 1959. While the competition eventually decamped to China, Merrifield stuck around and now sells about 200,000 whisks a year, available in 50 shapes and sizes, including the monumental 3-foot variety, which buyers snap up to the tune of 1,000 a month.

Specialization is the key to Best’s longevity, Merrifield says. “Had we decided to make garlic presses and cheese graters, we probably would have had to leave.” Other cost-saving strategies include implementing lean manufacturing — “We don’t make anything that isn’t sold” — and streamlining assembly operations. For example, the company recently adopted a new method of attaching the whisk heads to handles that eliminates washers and other “non-value added” components.

Best, which grossed $2 million last year, sells primarily to restaurant suppliers and houseware retailers. Going forward, Merrifield aims to focus more on brand recognition and marketing, an effort that will undoubtedly tout the company’s 15,000-square-foot Northeast Portland factory and the 14 workers it employs. One of those employees is 26-year-old Kyle Merrifield, a classical clarinet player and Best’s next heir apparent. “There’s a politics to making things in America, and my son has it,” says Merrifield. “There’s some pride in not running to China.”

Of course, the location of the company and the quality of workmanship are not the only things Merrifield, an avid cook, is proud of. “The whisk,” he says, quoting from a Crate & Barrel catalog, “is the second most essential item in the kitchen.”


More Articles

The 2014 100 Best Companies to Work for in Oregon

Friday, February 28, 2014

100best14logo ThumbnailThe 21st annual 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon list was announced Thursday night at an awards dinner at the Oregon Convention Center.


Downtime with Ron Green

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Ron Green became president and CEO of Oregon Pacific Bank in August 2013.


Video: Kickstarting Oregon business

Thursday, March 27, 2014
02.04.14 Thumbnail VideoBY JESSICA RIDGWAY | OB WEB EDITOR

Watch this OB Original Video about three Oregon companies and how crowd-funding "kickstarted" their business ideas.


Tech makes the world go round

Contributed Blogs
Thursday, March 20, 2014
03.20.14 thumb internetBY JASON NORRIS | GUEST BLOGGER

I don’t think anyone can (or should) remember what it was like to get things done without the internet. This milestone in technology has certainly benefited brick-and-mortar companies and subsequently launched a new era of businesses.


Speeding up science

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
02.25.14 Thumbnail MedwasteBY JOE ROJAS-BURKE | OB BLOGGER

The medical research enterprise wastes tens of billions of dollars a year on irrelevant studies. It’s time to fix it.


Why I became an educator

Tuesday, March 04, 2014
03.04.14 thumbnail teachBY DEBRA RINGOLD | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

How can we strengthen the performance of institutions charged with teaching what Francis Fukuyama calls the social virtues (reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust) necessary for successful markets and democracy itself?


What I'm reading: Brad Smith & Travis Boersma

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brad Smith, founder of Hot Pepper Studios, and Travis Boersma, president of Dutch Bros. Coffee, share their recent reads.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02