Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Kenro Company History Melmac Melamine Fredonia Plastics

Kenro melamine on Etsy
The futuristic deisgns of Kenro's holiday , this  set $40 at CalmCoolCollected on Etsy.
Kenro was one of great melamine manufacturers that outlived most. One may argue it was their timing or their keen ways of marketing and management.   I did a lot of research on them because I was in awe that by 1959 they were opening a second location when most plastics companies were lucky to survive.

Kenro Plates Melmac
Lovely Kenro Plates $38 at WanderlustSupplyCo on Etsy!

Kenro was named for it's owners, Kenneth Welch and Roger Sacia   (They took the KEN from Kenneth and RO from Roger to make the name Kenro. ) Their first plant, in Freedonia  Wisconsin at 200 Industrial Drive (Washington County) established in 1953 was turning out 24 hours worth of plastic  products, and 2 million dollars in annual sales by 1958.

Kenro Melmac
An ariel View from Google shows you how large this area was. 

The company was so overwhelmed,a second location in Galesville was in swing by the end of 1958, set to open in February 1959.  By 1959 a lot of earlier plastics companies were on their way out due to rising production costs and a general lack of love for melamine by consumers. Kenro's successful lines were Holiday by Kenro, Debonaire Melmac, and various kitchen plastics.

By 1966, Tom Meisenheimer was the national sales manager for Kenro, and had landed a contract with McDonald's, producing some of their plastic movie plates.  The company continued it's plastics production.  

Eventually there was some unknown merger or affiliation with Brookpark because later information lists Brookpark in 1996-1999 at the same address.Was Kenro molding for Brookpark or what?   To date, the company's building still stands today but is part of the Carlisle Corporation, you know, the ones who make commercial foodservice plates.
Kenro Inc
Presently, the company still says Kenro Inc and Carlisle on it. Courtesy: Google maps. 

Identifying Kenro items are easy, since most items are clearly marked.  What may be confusing is dating. Some will list patent numbers on them, and some will say patent pending. The patent pending is obviously older and scarcer because the company had applied but a patent was not yet granted for the items.  Later items show the original patent but does not mean they were produced on that date of the patent, but is simply referring to their original patent. You will see script and print backstamps for Kenro.

Identification tip: Backstamps were in Print and Cursive and often contained the
Patent number below or patent pending!  Kenro also made the Debonaire Line!

Kenro Cup Backstamp with Patent
This funky backstamp looks like an "oops" from BrickFarmhouse on Etsy.

  Kenro backstamp 
Print backstamp Courtesy of WanderlustSupplyCo on Etsy!

Debonaire Line
Debonaire Melmac Line backstamp from Modster Mash on Etsy.

Kenro was making all kinds of plastics for picnic, special order for companies or household use! I just found these adorable squatty cups today I'd never seen in 25 years of collecting. Because of Kenro's production run long you never know what you will find!  Funky!

Fun Kenro Household Plastics
These cute Kenro cups available at BrickFarmhouse on Etsy!
 What is known is the factory was later merged with Carlisle Corporation ( you know, the ones who make the buffet and commercial dinnerware for Foodservice.) The building still displays Kenro on it today!

Kenro Debonaire
Debonaire by Kenro, these at Modster Mash on Etsy.

Not just a pretty name. They were two very smart guys!

What's more, the inventors Kenneth B. Welch (President) and Roger R Sacia (Vice President) decided to patent their technique for METHOD AND COMPOSITION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF SPECKLED PLASTIC WARE on April 6, 1954!  This patent would technically prove them being "first to patent the speckled ware" although they weren't exactly first to invent. 
Patented Kenro Bowl
Most of Kenro's designs were patented.

One could argue from Russel Wright's experimental work in Syracuse, that he was experimenting with gold flecks and speckled wares as early as manufacturing of his Meladur or Prototype test lines, circa 1946-1949. Then enter Residential by Russel wright which was speckled in ways and on the table by the time the Kenro patent went through.  Other makers such as Daileyware or Boonton also had speckled designs.  In fact it's almost certain Boonton was first to the table but the difference here is that the Kenro guys were smart enough to put a patent on it!  Additionally, they held patents in Canada as well.  I have found some Canadian designs that are dead ringers for Kenro.

Debonaire Melmac
Kenro Debonaire Tumblers from seller WWBYNIGHT on Ebay
 Stay tuned, because my next post will be all about Kenro's glorious Ice Buckets...............

You May Like: 

All my Kenro posts. 

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