P. B. Gast & Sons Company
Corner of Lexington and Douglas
The company has a slogan, "Everything for Cleaning". It originally only had bar and laundry soap, which it made, to offer. Since then, they have discontinued soap making, they have represented Proctor & Gamble for many years.
Peter B. Gast, the founder came in 1891 from Iowa to Grand Rapids. He was only 20 years of age when he opened a small plant on Lexinton NW (then called 12 S. Jefferson). He sold bar and slab soap to local laundries. American Laundry was his first important customer. There were no soap chips at that time and housewives had to slice the soap by hand. Mrs. Gast suggested that Peter chip the soap in the plant. The company is believed to be the first one producing soap chips in the country.
They later added laundry supplies, such as starches and bleaches. In 1919 due to expanded business the company moved to larger quarters at 335-44 Lexington. At that time the two oldest sons, Waldemar and Raymond joined in the business. By 1921, the company got into bulk storage for products such as sulphuric, nitric, muriatic acids, ammonia, etc. It was decided to quit the soap making part of the business.
In 1949 the company was moved to Madison, SE in a three-story building that was built by H. J. Heinz Company as a pickle factory. At that time this area was sparsely settled and was a cucumber-growing location. It is now an industrial area with such companies as Doehler-Jarvis and Dexter Lock Company.
Created: 3 January 2008