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In 1946, the world was a drastically changing place. Americans were celebrating victory and an end to World War II, the baby boomers were being born, and peaches were boxed in wood crates. With a $600 bank loan in hand, Bill and Evelyn Rudder, founded Woodbury Box Company with the goal of supplying all the peach farmers in the area with wooden peach crates.
During the 1950’s the market for wooden fruit boxes would be replaced by corrugated boxes and Mr. Rudder was soon challenged with a company redefinition. Surrounded by textile mills in the area, he found a new line of work by manufacturing rollers and beams for textile machinery. By the early 1960’s, technology had increased the life of rollers and beams to the point they were no longer profitable. Once again, Mr. Rudder was faced with redefining the company. At this point in time a noteworthy change was made at Woodbury Box Company. Steel replaced wood as the raw good of choice. The first mass produced metal item manufactured by the company was funeral caskets, and hence, the name Woodbury Box Company remained the same. Unfortunately the casket business proved not to be profitable either and once again the Rudders were faced with the challenge of redefining the company.
During this time the company expanded its capacity by contracting assembly work of industrial mop hardware for the surrounding textile mills. It wasn’t long after, Mr. Rudder had convinced the mills his company could produce these parts better and less expensive than they could themselves. By 1965, Woodbury Box Company was producing a full line of industrial mop hardware components complete with a plated finish. In 1978, the company added its first injection molding machine to produce the plastic lock still found on our dust mop hardware today. Over the course of the next thirty years more plastic injection molding machines would be added to further increase the capacity and capabilities of the company. Mr. and Ms. Rudder have passed on now but the company still produces many of those original parts and is still owned and operated by the same family.
In 1988, Dr. Susan Hall, daughter of Mr. and Ms. Rudder, took over the helm as CEO of Woodbury Box Company. She had spent her previous 14 years in education. Challenged with aging facilities and an electroplating system that was facing increasing government regulation, the decision was made to move the company 20 miles away to Thomaston, Georgia. In 1994, the company opened for business in its new 65,000 square foot facility. With the move came mechanization and another company redefinition. CNC wire bending machinery, robotic welders, computerized office software and soon after a five stage powder coat system all replaced the processes of the past. With these new capabilities, Dr. Hall once again redefined the company increasing its capacity to mass produce wire and steel products to numerous markets outside their existing business.
In 1999, a third generation of family members became active in the business. Kim Sidey, Matt Fuller, and Dan Fuller, children of Dr. Hall, all took on active rolls in the company hoping to move it forward into a new era. As the company continued to redefine itself through increased capabilities and new markets, the time had finally come to put the name Woodbury Box Company to rest. No longer making boxes or being located in Woodbury only caused confusion when marketing and promoting the company into new markets. After much contemplation, the company was renamed Chief Manufacturing. Founder Bill Rudder was affectionately known by his grandchildren as “Chief”. The family felt this was the best way to honor his legacy with the company.
Today, Chief Manufacturing continues to redefine itself, just as the Rudders did in the 1950’s. With the capacity to produce wire bent and flat steel components, robotic welded components, plastic injected parts and powder coated finished components to a wide array of markets, Chief Manufacturing’s diversity of capabilities redefines itself on a daily basis. What remains the same within the company is the family ownership and drive to continue Chief’s legacy into the next generation.