HJ/EDHerald Journal, Nov. 14, 2005

End of an era: DairiConcepts closing Winsted plant

By Ryan Gueningsman
Staff Writer

The end of an era is fast approaching in Winsted, with the recent announcement by DairiConcepts that it plans on closing its Winsted manufacturing plant at the end of the year.

DairiConcepts, which is based in Springfield, Mo., will be relocating its processing for cheddar club cheese and other ingredients that had been done in Winsted, according to a press release.

“Unfortunately, in today’s marketplace, the size and scope of this little plant limits its ability to stay competitive with high volume plants,” said DairiConcepts Vice President of Operations Brian Bonebright in a press release.

One DairiConcepts employee, while standing outside the business when the familiar tanks that have graced the Winsted skyline for decades were being removed, commented it was the “end of an era.”

“It’s really unfortunate,” commented production supervisor Dawn Raymond. “It’s a sad deal.”

“No one likes to deliver this kind of news to such a dedicated group of employees,” Bonebright said. “These employees and the dairy processing plant have a long-standing history of producing quality products and providing their customers outstanding service.”

The plant’s history dates back to the late 1920s, when it was built as the Pure Milk Products Company, and processed milk from local farmers into butter and casein.

Information from the Winsted Centennial Book, published in 1987, lists the three original owners as Leonard Herrmann, David Laurance, and Marcel Ochu. Some employees photographed in about 1930 included Andy Quast, Tony Wawrzyniak, George Herrmann, George Mochinske, George Roufs, August Litfin, Albert Birkholz, Andrew Herrmann, Bert Rathmanner, George Bayerl, and Tony Safaria. The first snowplow on a truck in Winsted was also seen in the Pure Milk photo from the 1930s.

Herrmann, Laurance, and Ochu purchased the creamery from Hutchinson Produce Company, and began operations at West Winsted, eventually consolidating with creameries at Sherman Station, Stockholm, and Whipple. Henry Moore entered the business partnership of the creamery in 1937.

In 1941, the plant began making cheddar cheese when it employed Wisconsin native Leo Hertel, who would become a stockholder in the plant. Another business partner, Herman Peschken, entered the business in 1946.

In the 1950s, Pure Milk Products Company began processing its own whey, which was sold throughout the midwest and mountain states. The processing of lactose began in early 1952.

The plant’s owners remained the same until 1970, when it was purchased by the dairy farmers who owned the milk marketing cooperative, Mid-America Dairymen (Mid-Am).

Mid-Am was a predecessor cooperative for Dairy Farmers of America. In May 2000, the facility was bought by DairiConcepts. Currently, there are 13 employees at the plant.

“Our employees are our primary focus right now,” Bonebright said. “They have done an excellent job of turning out the highest quality products for decades. We’re proud of their work, and will do all we can to assist them to make the transition.”

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