New owners plot growth for Milwaukee plastic company

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:27 pm

New owners plot growth for Milwaukee plastic company

By Katherine Michalets, of SBT

The desire to keep Bardes Plastics Inc. in Milwaukee drove Mary Strupp and Michael Heyer to purchase the company.
While consulting for Bardes Plastics, Strupp and Heyer realized the importance of the relationship that Bardes Plastics, 5225 W. Clinton Ave., had developed with its customers and employees.
So when Albert Bardes, founder and owner of Bardes Plastics, died on Sept. 13, 2002, Strupp and Heyer decided to step forth and purchase the 53-year-old company.
"We didn’t want to see the company bought by someone outside the state," said Strupp. "We knew that we could make a success out of it."
Before becoming business partners, Strupp and Heyer worked at Bardes Products, where they continue to work, as well as owning Bardes Plastics.
Strupp has worked as the advertising and marketing manager for 13 years, and Heyer has worked as the general manager for 23 years.
Bardes Products is a separately owned company housed in the same building as Bardes Plastics. Bardes Products had been a division of Bardes Plastics until Peter Bardes bought Bardes Products more than 25 years ago.
In 2002, while Strupp and Heyer consulted and helped in the decision-making process at Bardes Plastics, they became familiar with many different aspects of the company.
"We saw some of the things that they had done right and some things we thought that could be done better in order to move the company further," said Heyer.
When Albert Bardes died, the opportunity for acquisition seemed ripe. The first steps that Strupp took were to design a business plan and to obtain consultation from several banks before securing financing with M&I Bank. The buying process started earlier this year and was finalized June 1.
Strupp, the chief executive officer, owns 50% of Bardes Plastics, making her the majority owner. Heyer, the president, and a silent partner, Gary Orten, each own 25% of the company.
Bardes Plastics manufactures a variety of plastic products, including candy and nut packaging, party trays, display/gift packaging, plastic inserts, material handling trays and customized products for clients.
Rolls of plastic are shipped to Bardes Plastics to mold.
Bardes Plastics’ busiest production time is May through October. During those months, Bardes Plastics employs two shifts, while the demand for the rest of the year requires only one shift.
Heyer hopes, "to fill the slow season with tangible work," thus keeping the second shift year-round.
Bardes Plastics currently employs about 30 full-time employees and several seasonal workers.
Strupp wants to see the product line, the number of employees and the customer base grow.
"We hope to expand our customer base. We hope to reach into segments of thermoforming that Bardes Plastics might not have been able to do before, and we think that it will be reached, due to our creativity in our design and our engineering possibilities," Strupp said.
An engineering and design development team, along with a business development manager, are used to create new products and to work with clients.
"We hope that with our design and engineering capabilities, there will be new features, perhaps in products that we already manufactured," she said. According to Strupp, Bardes Plastics has room to expand within its two-building, 100,000-square-foot production plant.
Ran Hamner, general manager for Bardes Plastics since Aug.18, predicts the company will grow in the next year.
"We have an outstanding foundation on which to build," Hamner said. "There is a long history here, and our challenge is to build the company significantly, substantially and profitably."
Both Strupp and Heyer are excited about their new roles.
"It’s important to be the owner of something; you help to shape its destiny," Heyer said.
"Your heart and your soul are invested in it, as well as your dollars," Strupp said.

Nov. 14, 2003 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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