Home cooking propels Regal Ware

When I hear the words “West Bend Cookware by Regal Ware,” the first image that comes to mind is my grandmother’s old stainless steel oblong slow cooker that created many heavenly Sunday dinners over the years.

However, I think it is time to update that word/image association. In its place, I would like to submit the phrase, “The Wisconsin manufacturer that has figured out a successful model to export its products to customers in China.”

Last December, Kewaskum-based Regal Ware Inc. and the Chinese firm JM International (formerly Joymain) signed a letter of intent to do business. On May 7, the first shipments of Regal Ware’s cookware left Regal Ware’s West Bend manufacturing facility bound for JM International’s customer experience centers throughout China.

That was the first of Regal Ware’s high-quality cookware products to be shipped in 2015 for sale and distribution by JM International’s network of 2 million sales consultants worldwide and 2,500 storefronts in China. The products were introduced to more than 30,000 sales consultants in-person through a series of rallies held in China in April.

Regal Ware executives and leaders, including president and chief executive officer Jeff Reigle, senior vice president of sales and marketing Dave Lenz, senior vice president of operations Joe Swanson and director of international sales Matt Reigle traveled to China in April to attend the kick-off rallies.

The cookware being introduced by JM International is manufactured and sold under the West Bend Cookware by Regal Ware brand name.

“We are projecting to have our third consecutive year of growth,” Jeff Reigle said. “Foreign shipments account for over 60 percent of our revenue.”

The company markets itself as being “committed to bringing people back to the table.”

The additional exports to China and the firm’s other growth initiatives are likely to result in additional manufacturing jobs for its multi-ply stainless steel cookware plant in West Bend and its cast aluminum cookware plant in Kewaskum. Earlier this year, Regal Ware launched a new e-commerce website, www.americankitchencookware.com.

Regal Ware, which celebrated a century of manufacturing in 2011, is poised for a record year of sales – quite a remarkable feat for such an old-school line of products. The company invested $5 million in its West Bend plant.

According to the company, 75 percent of its workforce has been employed at the firm for 25 years or more.

Regal Ware is a Wisconsin merger success story. Remember, Regal Ware acquires the assets of the West Bend Company, a competitor, back in 2002

Jeff Reigle represents the third generation of his family to lead the company. He will be followed by his sons, Matthew and Ryan. Jeff’s father, James, remains as chairman of the board. Jeff’s brother, Doug, serves as vice president of supply chain management.

The family ties at the company extend beyond the Reigles. The firm’s 300 employees include 11 married couples, and the staff is loaded with second-, third- and even fourth-generation employees.

Handled the right way, nepotism at a company can be a strategic asset that delivers unparalleled loyalty and continuity.

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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