Greene County Arkansas

Paragould, Arkansas

Centennial Edition Section 2

8- Section 2, Centennial Edition                                                                                                                      Paragould Daily Press, Monday, August 29, 1983

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"Diversity Defines Modern Paragould Industries"

  Paragould's manufacturers are listed in chronological order.

Dr. Pepper Bottling Co.
   On April 18, 1926 R. A. "Red"
Reynolds, J. M. Reynolds and their
half brother, Herbert Bland, opened
the  doors  of  the  Mellow  Moon
Bottling  Company  in  Paragould.
Until then, Red had operated a cafe
in town and Bland  was  selling and
making  ice  cream  for  the  Ideal
Bottling Works of Paragould.
  The three brothers invested $1,800
and  began  the  bottling  operation
which  manufactured  only  Mellow
Moon flavor  drinks.  In  1929 the franchise to bottle Dr Pepper was acquired and the name changed to Dr. Pepper Bottling Company.
  No change was made in the drinks
from then until 1959 when they pur-
chased the Seven-Up Bottling Com-pany  and  merged  the businesses. Also  in 1959, t he  right  to  bottle Frostie Root Beer was acquired. Like Cola was added in 1982.
  A modern building was completed in 1967, which featured high-speed equpment  for  bottling  soft drinks.
   The third generation of Blands is
now employed at the company. It operates 108 trucks and employs 163 workers and has a production facility with 110,000 square feet.

Keasler Body Co.
   Jim and Ida Keasler came to Ar-
kansas in 1913 from Eldorado, Ill. At that time they had two daughters.
They had visited relatives in the state
and found that land was cheaper in
Arkansas than in their home state, so they moved.
  They settled on a farm in Crow-ley's Ridge, but soon Keasler was in several kinds of businesses. He was a grist mill operator, a blacksmith, store merchant, sawmill owner and founder of Keasler Body Co. At one time, he also operated a tourist court.
   With  these  businesses,  Keasler frequently had to go into Paragould to buy a sack of coal for his black-smith business. In 1925 he bought a T-Model  Ford  Roadster  and one day  decided  to  remove  the back and built a small body to haul his supplies from town.
Soon he was asked to build bodies for his neighbors who had seen his.
   This was the beginning of the truck
body business. He relocated the truck body business to its present location in 1934. At that time all truck bodies were made of wood; Keasler put in  his own sawmill and his own sawmill and cut and sawed
his own lumber.
   After moving to Arkansas, the
Keaslers had three sons. Lawrence,
the  only s on to stay with  the busi- ness, purchased it in 1952. His father died the next year.
   The elder Keasler never built a steel or aluminum truck body. Everything was wood. For many years the small pickup truck body was the mainstay of Keasler Body Co., but times changed and the body business was phased out. With it  came a  new line of truck  equip-ment.
   The company has always been a
family  business.  Lawrence's  wife
worked in the office for 25 years and they have a daughter and sons-in-law who are employed there.

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Dr. Pepper, the city's oldest industry, displays a painting of its former headquarters in its lobby while Emerson Electric, the largest, shows off the first and the millionth motors made here.

Photo courtesy: Bruce Moore/Daily Press

 
Ely & Walker
   When Ely & Walker opened its new
factory on East Park Street in 1937, it
was the largest industry in the history
of Paragould.
   In its 46 years, Ely & Walker of Pa-
ragould Inc. has gone from producing
a man's basic shirt to designing and
making blouses for women as well.
   During World War II, the company
completed 19 government contracts
for Army and Navy Shirts.
   Today, the 86,000-square-foot
facility employs about 275 workers.

Lear Siegler Inc.-Peerless Division
   Lear Siegler Inc.-Peerless Division
began in Paragould in 1950 as Wonder
State Manufacturing Co. and employed
about 12 persons. It merged with Royal
Industries  on  Aug. 10, 1972  and be- came Royal Industries-Wonder State Division.
   On Jan. 1, 1977 Royal Industries
merged with Lear Siegler and has ex-
panded its building several times. There are now 52 employees.

Foremost Foods
   Foremost Foods-Dairy Division origi-
nated in Paragould in the summer of
1952. At that time, milk was bottled in
glass containers and waxed paper car-
tons. The largest container for commer-
cial use at that time was the quart size.
   In 1953, the plant began to phase
out the glass bottles and started packag-
ing in half-gallon containers. In the 1970s
the company began using the plastic gallon jug type.
   The plant has expanded several times
over the years and now employs 120
people.

Emerson Electric Co.
   Emerson  Electric  Co. of  St. Louis announced in November 1955 that it would locate a new plant in Paragould to  manufacture  electric  motors  for laundry appliances.
   A year later, the company began manufacturing at the new plant, located at Pekin and Scott streets.
   Emerson motors may be found in any name-brand laundry appliance except General electric, the company's primary rival.
   In  the  beginning, the plant employed
about 100  persons.  Today, Emerson is Paragould's  biggest  employer,  with  about 1,235 persons on the payroll.
   The plant has been expanded five times since it was constructed.

Wilbert Burial Vault Co. Inc.
   The original owners of Paragould Wilbert Burial Vault Co. Inc. were Joe Wilder and W. H. Griffin. The business began Oct. 2, 1960 in a warehouse on Second Street and moved to its  present  location  on  East  Kingshighway in July 1963.
  

 
..    Griffin  retired  in  1980  and  sold his part to Wilder. The business was incor-porated on Aug. 1, 1981.The company manufactures concrete burial vaults and other products. Joe and Dorris Wilder are the managers, and Lee Sisk is vice president.

Allen Engineering Corp.
Allen Engineering Corp. at 819 S. Fifth St. was established in 1964 as a ready mix concrete operation and began manufacturing of concrete finishing equipment in 1976. The plant's facilities expanded in 1980 and 1983.
   It has been at its present site since 1968. Its products are sold throughout the United States and internationally. Allen Engineering also has a contracting division, established in 1979, which does highway and bridge contracting work. There about 20 employees, and Dewayne and Mary Ann Allen are
the owners.

Darling Store Fixtures
Darling Store Fixtures, a manufacturer of shelving and clothing racks, located in Paragould in June 1966.
   Darling's roots go back to 1897 in Coldwater, Mich., where a plant named the Ideal Fixture Co. was first establish-ed. That name was changed after the company moved to Bronson, Mich. several years later and was purchased by L. A. Darling.
   In 1965, Darling management decided to branch out into the manufacture of shelving. A shortage of space at Bronson led to the selection of Paragould as a building site. A year later, the company began producing
shelving and garment racks in the new 85, 000-square-foot plant.
   Still later, it was decided to house the entire metal operation at Paragould and the plant was expanded to about 400,000 square feet, covering three major areas: fabricating, finishing and warehousing.
   In 1965, the plant employed less than 100 persons; today it has about 490 on the payroll.
   The plant, located on U.S. Hwy. 49B,
obtained $1.5 million in industrial development bonds for the construction of a new chrome plating line in 1980.

Martin Sprocket & Gear
Martin Sprocket & Gear, East Pearl
and Howard Avenue,began inParagould on Sept. 1, 1966 with one building and three employees.
   Now employing about 135 workers, the local plant manufactures roller chain sprockets and gears and exchangeable and prefabricated bushings.
   The plant has expanded several times and has added a new brand of sprocket since it originated.
 

.. Monroe Auto Equipment Co.
   Monroe Auto Equipment Co. opened a Paragould plant to manufacture shock absorbers in 1970. Monroe was ac-quired by Tenneco Inc., a multi-industry company based in Houston, in 1977 and became a division  of  Tenneco  Auto-motive,  with  head-quarters in Monroe, Mich.
   Monroe today has about 750 emplo- yees in Paragould. Of the original employees, 148 are still with the company.
   In 1972, the plant added 24,000 square feet for the production of sintered (powdered)  metal  parts  for  its  ride control products. The Monroe ware-house was expanded in 1974 by  42,000 square feet. The plant is located on U.S. Hwy. 49B.
   The Paragould facility, the only U.S. Monroe plant to make load levelers and air shocks, ships 60 percent of all Monroe shocks which are distributed in this country

Dana Corp.
American Biltrite Inc. began producing
rubber products,. primarily conveyor
belts and rubber sheet packing for gasket material, here in 1977.
   Located on Purcell Road, the plant
employs about 100 persons.
   Dana Corp. purchased American
Biltrite and renamed the plant Boston
Industrial Products.

Arkla Industries
   Arkla Industries of Paragould is the
appliance division of Arkla Industries
of Evansville, Ind., which for more
than 25 years has been a manufactur-
ing subsidiary of Arkla Inc. (formerly
the Arkansas-Louisiana Gas Co.)
   Arkla Industries began when Arkla
Inc. purchased the Servel Corp. in
Evansville in 1957. giving the company
50 years' experience in manufacturing
and marketing products. The Para-
gould operation began in 1979 in the old Ed White Jr. Shoe Co. building.
   The company built a new factory,
located  on  Jones Road, which pro-
duces gas barbecue grills and consists
of 310,000 square feet of production,
warehousing and office space.
   The production of gas barbecue
grills in the Paragould facility has in-
creased from 225,000 gas grills in 1980 to 650,000 gas grills anticipated production for 1983. Employment for this year is expected to peak at 500.
   This summer, the plant will begin
manufacturing family exercise equip-
ment.

Transcribed from the 1983 Centennial Edition by : PR Massey

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