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

Leading with the right brain

News
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
120914-manderson-thumbBY LINDA BAKER

On the eve of the Portland Ad Federation's Rosey Awards, Matt Anderson, CEO of Struck, talks about the transition from creative director to CEO, the Portland talent pool and whether data is the new black in the creative services sector.


Read more...

Healthcare pullback

News
Thursday, November 20, 2014
112014-boehnercare-thumbBY JASON NORRIS | OB CONTRIBUTOR

Each month for Oregon Business, we assess factors that are shaping current capital market activity—and what they mean to investors. Here we take a look at two major developments regarding possible rollbacks of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


Read more...

Top stories in 2014

The Latest
Thursday, December 18, 2014
10-listthumb

2014 was a year of wild contradictions, fast-paced growth and unexpected revelations.


Read more...

The short list: Holiday habits of six Oregon CEOs

The Latest
Thursday, December 11, 2014
121214-xmaslist1BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

We ask business and nonprofit leaders how they survive the season.


Read more...

The short list: 4 companies engaged in a battle of the paddles

The Latest
Thursday, December 04, 2014
pingpongthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Nothing says startup culture like a ping pong table in the office, lounge or lobby.


Read more...

Growing a mobility cluster

News
Friday, October 31, 2014
0414 bikes bd2f6052BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Why are there so few transportation startups in Portland?  The city’s leadership in bike, transit and pedestrian transportation has been well-documented.  But that was then — when government and nonprofits paved the way for a new, less auto centric way of life.


Read more...

Powerbook Perspective

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

A conversation with Oregon state economist Josh Lehner.


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