On October 16, 1929, Milton Silverman borrowed $250 from a local bank to start a new company. The banker asked what the name of the new company would be. As the story goes, Milton was looking out of the window when he saw a truck drive by with the word CENTRAL printed on it. He responded with the name CENTRAL BAG COMPANY. On October 16, 1934 the company was incorporated.
The first plant was located at 3017 Wyoming just off Southwest Boulevard. It was at this point that the company moved from just repairing used bags to producing new bag of burlap, cotton and jute. At that time, the manufacturing of bags was done by laying fabric on long tables and cutting by hand. The company's main product was producing 100 lb. bags made from unbleached muslin which was primarily sold to the flour milling industry.
The company eventually picked up automated equipment for this process and later a printing press. The company then added spot and band labeled dress prints and cambric bags, and continued to clean and repair used bags.
At the time the company was still small and insignificant in its trade, but then World War II came along. Cotton fabric became scarce, but Milton was able to secure a contract for a substantial amount of yardage through some mills in Texas. Cotton bags were selling at an all-time premium. At the time only the major bag producers supplied the larger companies, but due to the shortage they began to look at others for their needs. Hearing that Central Bag had a supply of fabric, Pillsbury contacted Milton who turned it into a long term contract making them a company's largest customers. Arch-Daniels-Mildland, Con Agra, Cargill Grain and General Mills following closely behind.
Alex Silverman worked with his brother Milton for many years and joined the company full time in 1941. He left at the end of that year to serve in the Army Air Corps and returned to the family business in 1945.
In 1946, the company moved to the West Bottoms of Kansas City at 1323 West 13th Street. Tom Simone joined the company in 1951 after leaving Coca-Cola but was drafted into the service 6 months later. In 1951 the Missouri and Kaw rivers flooded the west bottoms area. Valuable papers were retrieved from the company's accounting office by launching a rowboat from the 12th Street Bridge and climbing into the accounting office windows on the second floor. Many carcasses of cows and pigs from the flooded stockyards located behind the Livestock Exchange Building a few blocks away ended up in the basement of the building. The company recovered from this disaster and continued business. Then in 1953 the company suffered a substantial fire to the sewing department located on the third floor. Again the company rebounded and was back in business within a short time.
Tom Simone returned to the company this same year after serving two years in Korea. In 1954 Milton's son, Albert Silverman, joined the company after serving in the Air Force. Seeing the rapid trend in the industry away from cotton and burlap to paper bags particularly in Texas and Oklahoma, Albert contacted St Regis Paper Company and started reselling multiwall paper bags to long time customers. This business continued to grow as seed, feed and flour milling customers converted to the less expensive paper bags.
The burlap business continued to thrive in the potato, bean and peanut industries, and for export sugar and USDA export flour bags. In 1975, the company purchased one of its competitors, Valley Bag & Supply in East Grand Forks, MN. They were a warehouse and distributor of textile bags, paper bags and boxes to the agricultural industry throughout the Dakotas and Minnesota as well as providing custom prints on finished bags using a hand fed press. At their peak, Central/Valley employed over 200 people. In December 1982, Chris Klimek joined the company after leaving Macy's Midwest Division to assist the sales departments of Central and Valley with the growing demand for multiwall bags. Over the years that followed, several product lines were added to the company as packaging evolved into plastics, both polyethylene and woven polypropylene.
In January 1988, Milton Silverman passed away. Several offers where made to purchase the company, but instead on May 15, 1989, the Silverman Family instituted a 100% ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). At the time this was somewhat unusual as most plans involved only a partial transfer of stock, and a few 100% ESOP's had negative results. Jeff Chalabi was hired in January 1991 after graduating from KU to assist with the textile manufacturing part of the business. Tom Simone, who was elected president after Albert's contract expired in 1994, and Chris Klimek was elected vice president.
On June 12, 1998, the final payment was made on the ESOP note, making Central Bag Company and Valley Bag & Supply fully owned by the employees. By the end of the year, the last note was paid off making the company 100% debt free. Tom Simone retired in December 2000 after 50 years' service with the company. Chris Klimek was elected president in January 2001.
Faced with declining sales due to an increasing trend toward imports, the company's focus was quickly changed to becoming a direct importer of several products. Product lines increased with the addition of bulk bags, bulk boxes, geotextile fabrics (weed barrier) and newer laminated paper/poly and BOPP/poly bags. Jeff Chalabi was promoted to vice president of sales and marketing in August 2001 and began to develop the new sales force. Textile manufacturing continued to decline to 10% of revenues but overall sales grew steadily by almost 10% per year. By 2007 the company began to outgrow the old brick and timber building and realizing the need for domestic manufacturing of laminated woven bags, they looked for a larger building. On May 28, 2010 the company moved to a 250,000sq ft. facility in Leavenworth, KS. In January 2011, the company began producing their first laminated woven bags.
Though the founding family many be gone, the company still operates like a family business. The company's founding principal, "A DEPENDABLE SOURCE OF BAG SUPPLIES", has become the core of company's new motto...
"TO PROVIDE A DEPENDABLE ONE STOP PACKAGING SOLUTION THROUGH INNOVATION AND TOTAL EMPLOYEE INVOLVEMENT"
Copyright 2012: Central Bag Company