A Sweeping Success Story

Categories: Member Profiles

By Graeme Golucki | July 8, 2019 << Back to Articles A Sweeping Success Story

In 2018, Gordon Brush Mfg. Co., Inc. was named the recipient of the MADE: In America Award™. Gordon Brush® was one of only four winners of the annual award, which recognizes outstanding achievements by an American manufacturing company.

The award was bestowed on the heels of the company receiving a Certificate of Congressional Recognition as part of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Make It In America initiative. The House established the program in 2010 to encourage private sector job creation nationwide. Not only did Gordon Brush receive national recognition for its participation in the program, U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) visited its 183,000-square-foot manufacturing complex in the City of Industry, CA, to personally bestow the honor upon the company for actively promoting the American manufacturing industry.

These two honors are the culmination of Gordon Brush’s decades of developing and producing premium quality American made brushes and brooms. Though the company was established in the 1950s, its product portfolio includes brands whose history dates as far back as the 1800s.

Gordon Brush was founded by Don Gordon (hence the name) and experienced moderate success manufacturing specialty brushes during the next few decades. In 1973, aerospace engineer William Loitz purchased the company from Gordon. Loitz maintained the company’s steady growth for the next 15 years or so. Faced with a bit of a rough patch, Loitz brought in Ken Rakusin to help right the ship. Rakusin previously had a successful career with Xerox; he immediately began turning the company around and eventually purchasing the company in 1998.

Historic acquisitions

Under Rakusin’s leadership, Gordon Brush began making a series of acquisitions that set the company on a pathway to prosperity, starting with the purchase of the Marx Brush line of artist and cosmetic brushes in 1999. Six years later, Gordon Brush purchased Milwaukee Dustless Brush, a janitorial and sanitation brush manufacturer that had been in business since the 1890s.

“Milwaukee Dustless Brush was established in 1897 as the name implies, in Milwaukee, WI,” said Alan Schechter, vice president of marketing for Gordon Brush. “Milwaukee Dustless was one of the earliest, if not the first, manufacturers of commercial cleaning tools. It made a name for itself with a steel-backed brush head that featured an external socket with nearly infinite positions, something that to this day remains unique in the industry. While today it is now a part of Gordon Brush, we kept the brand name, because anyone in the industry who hasn’t been under a rock—or a brush—knows the Milwaukee Dustless name.”

Confronting challenges

Gordon Brush did not slow down after its acquisition of Milwaukee Dustless. The company continued to expand its product offerings through numerous acquisitions of specialty brush manufacturers. Earlier this year, the company purchased Spectrum Paint Applicator Corp., an American manufacturer of consumer paint brushes, paint rollers, and artist brushes, that was founded in 1945. And while the quantity of Gordon Brush’s equipment portfolio continued to grow through the years, one thing that did not shrink was the company’s commitment to quality.

“While other manufacturers may have consolidated, Gordon Brush has been able to thrive by delivering a premium line of durable products,” Schechter said. “On a daily basis, it feels as if we’re in a battle against low-cost, knockoff, and counterfeit manufacturers. This is one of the biggest challenges facing not just Gordon Brush, but the entire industry. We will never apologize for producing high-quality products or having premium pricing. We’re proud of the fact that at the end of the day, our customers receive a product they can be proud of and that can do the job for which it is intended for a long, long time.”

According to Rakusin, not only is Gordon Brush committed to producing quality products, the company is also loyal to the people manufacturing these products. That employee loyalty is reciprocal and another crucial factor to the company’s continued success.

“One of the reasons we’re so committed to remaining a U.S.-based manufacturer is our people,” Rakusin said. “There are employees both on our factory floor and in our administrative offices that have been here for more than four decades. Today, we’re the home-away-from-home for more than 150 workers. Some of these employees even have [now adult] children who have come to work for us. We joke that eventually we’re going to start employing workers’ grandchildren when they’re old enough. We endeavor ourselves to be extremely family oriented and that sense of communion has developed a great sense of pride in the products we manufacturer.”

Showing up at the show

In addition to quality products and a commitment to its employees, Schechter also credits Gordon Brush’s relationship with ISSA throughout the years as another rung on the company’s ladder of success. Gordon Brush is currently celebrating its 60th year as an ISSA member.

“It’s very simple; ISSA is the major trade organization of the industry,” Schechter said. “It’s a fantastic source of knowledge for everything impacting the janitorial industry, a great source for keeping up on current trends. We absolutely love the annual show (ISSA Show North America). Our employees relish the opportunity to attend and see old friends, our customers, and even our competitors. Even though we’ve been around for six decades, it is still important for Gordon Brush to have a presence at the show and be seen by the industry.”

Schechter also is quick to point out that the ISSA Show is more than the show floor itself. “As exciting as working the booth can be, I have to say the keynote speakers have been phenomenal lately,” he said. “Howie Mandel was so funny a few years ago in [Las Vegas], I couldn’t stop laughing. And last year in Dallas, I was completely in awe of President George W. Bush. It was almost unbelievable to be not just in the same room as him, but at arm’s length from a former president as he delivered a phenomenal fireside chat. And there’s others through the years—boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank, the list goes on. ISSA goes above and beyond to make it a week to experience.”

Looking ahead

Although Gordon Brush has had a series of successes recently, Schechter is empathetic to many of the issues facing the cleaning industry today. “I do find it disturbing that many of the mom-and-pop type smaller manufacturers and distributors are going by the wayside, either being bought up or shutting their doors,” he said. “Consolidation has made it so the jansan world in some ways is no longer a cottage industry. Plus, the challenges of cheaper, lesser quality products have made it tougher to be competitive. But as long as we continue to be committed to employing quality people and manufacturing superior products, I have no doubt Gordon Brush will continue to thrive. Consumers will find that the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low prices has been forgotten.”

About the Author.

Graeme Golucki is ISSA's digital strategy editor and can be reached at [email protected]; phone, 800-225-4772 (North America) and 847-982-0800.