Hardwood Products Company reaches 100 years of operation
GUILFORD — What was founded by Lloyd Cartwright in 1919 as the Minto Toothpick and Specialty Company in Saginaw, Michigan is today the nation’s principal manufacturer of a broad variety of tipped applicators, tongue depressors, and other medical and non-medical disposable woodenware and related products.
This month marks the start of the 100th year of Hardwood Products Company. Over the years, as market demands increased, the family business separated into a pair of operating divisions to better serve the two distinct markets. Today more than 500 people are employed by Hardwood Products and the Puritan Medical Products Company, both located near the end of School Street.
Company officials are planning events to celebrate the 100th anniversary which will recognize the employees, customers, and the community. “There is a long history of pride in the company and pride in the community,” General Manager and Chief Operating Officer Terry Young said.
Vice President of Operations James Cartwright, the third-generation owner who has been with the company for more than 40 years, said the business is looking to hosting a BBQ to thank its employees, possibly at the town athletic field in late July in conjunction with Guilford’s annual Piscataquis River Festival. He said Hardwood Products should have several floats in the festival parade.
“There is a lot of community involvement here, not just with sponsorships and funds but with people,” Young said.
He said a “100th anniversary holiday” will give employees a day off in recognition of their hard work and reaching the century milestone — the exact date is to be determined.
Young said new 100th anniversary logos are being developed and will be unveiled to the public in the months to come.
“Our goal will be to focus on the people, our success is our employees,” Puritan Medical Products Marketing Manager Virginia Templet said, saying some families have worked for the company for multiple generations. She explained that throughout 2019 stories will be presented through company publications, social media, and at trade shows to shine a spotlight on employees’ commitment to creating quality products, providing excellent customer service, and giving back to the community.
Templet said nearly everyone has used an item manufactured by the company, such as a Hardwood Products popsicle stick or tongue depressor or a Puritan Medical swab, and the company plans to recognize its employees for the impact they have made as well as to thank its customers.
When Lloyd Cartwright — James Cartwright’s grandfather — founded the Minto Toothpick and Specialty Company the only product being produced was mint-flavored toothpicks. A year after the founding Lloyd Cartwright acquired the Guilford Manufacturing Company, which made wooden boxes for fruit storage. The Piscataquis County facility provided better access to the large source of white birch in Maine after the only supplier in Michigan discontinued operations, as well as direct access to the railroad and the Piscataquis River.
In 1950 the company was rebranded as Hardwood Products and the entire operations moved to the current location. Soon after the move the product line expanded to include tongue depressors, candy and ice cream sticks, dowel products, meat skewers, drink stirrers, and wrapped ice cream spoons. To avoid stagnation and to stimulate growth, Lloyd Cartwright’s son Edgar Cartwright began to pursue a medical products business.
“Our medical products grew away from the wood side,” James Cartwright said, saying both companies are limited liability companies (LLC) operating under a limited partnership (LP).
Hardwood Products suffered a devastating fire in 1958, burning down the entire production and warehousing facility. Management, employees and the community came together to rebuild and open a new facility just two years later in 1960. In 1977 a new office building was constructed and in 1985 a 53,000-square foot facility was built for Puritan Medical operations.
A machine shop was added in 1993, two years later a larger warehouse opened, and Hardwood Products operations expanded into an upper level addition in 2010. A machine shop for both businesses opened in 2011 and a year later Puritan Medical began to use a warehouse addition.