Only whisk factory in U.S.

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

BY LINDA BAKER

0412_GamePlan_BestManufacturers_02
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
0412_GamePlan_BestManufacturers_03

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

Beneath the Surface

May 2015
Thursday, April 23, 2015
0515-goodhacker01 250pxwBY LINDA BAKER

On April 1 I attended a forum at the University of Portland on the sharing economy. The event featured panelists from Lyft and Airbnb, as well as Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. Asked about the impact of tech-driven sharing economy services. Hales said the new business models are reshaping the landscape. “But,” he added, “I don’t pretend to understand how a lot of this [technology] works.” 


Read more...

6 things to know about the Amtrak Cascades route

The Latest
Friday, May 22, 2015
thumb3BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The recent tragedy in Philadelphia has called attention to Amtrak and the nation's woefully underfunded rail service. Here are six facts about the Amtrak Cascades corridor between Eugene and Vancouver B.C. 


Read more...

Can small be large?

Linda Baker
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
040115-lindablogthumbBY LINDA BAKER

Leaders in Oregon's ag sector gathered this morning in Portland’s Coopers Hall winery/taproom to discuss the role of the region as an export gateway, impediments to exporting products and solutions to containerized shipping challenges.


Read more...

Fighting Fire With Fire

May 2015
Friday, April 24, 2015
BY BEN DEJARNETTE | INVESTIGATEWEST

Timber companies and environmental groups take a stab at collaboration to boost logging and restoration in Oregon fires.


Read more...

Editor’s Note: It’s a Man’s World

Linda Baker
Thursday, April 30, 2015
lindablogthumbBY LINDA BAKER | EDITOR

Earlier this week we posted an article from our May issue:  It’s a Man's Man’s Man’s World. The story covered the gender divide in tech from the perspective of male workers. Twitter didn’t like it.


Read more...

5 highlights from the Angel Oregon Showcase

The Latest
Thursday, April 23, 2015
IMG 5069BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

The entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well at the Oregon Angel showcase, an annual event for angel investors and early stage entrepreneurs.


Read more...

3 trends in the garden business

The Latest
Thursday, April 30, 2015
gardenthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Oregonians are scrambling to get their gardens in order for the summer. Here are three tips from landscaping and urban farming expert.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS