Division of Newell Rubbermaid Inc.
Sales: $200 million (2001 est.)
NAIC: 332510 Hardware Manufacturing
Based in Rockford, Illinois, Amerock Corporation is a leading U.S. manufacturer of cabinet hardware and storage systems. The company is part of Newell Rubbermaid Inc.’s Levolor Hardware Group. Amerock manufactures products under a number of different brand names, including Accentz, Accuride, Hint of Heritage, Inspirations, Marathon, Pro-Glide 5850, Radiance, Reflections, Royal Family/Natural Elegance, Storage & Convenience, System 2000, and System 3200. Its product offerings fall into several broad categories. In addition to decorative hardware, the company’s line of functional hardware includes drawer slides, brass items, and both concealed and decorative hinges. Amerock’s storage and convenience product offerings include blind corner shelves, turn-a-shelf sets, storage systems for pantries, organizers, and media storage products.
Starting Strong: 1928-49
Like many American manufacturing companies, what eventually became Amerock began modestly, resulting from the efforts of a few determined people and a pioneering idea. In 1928, two Swedish immigrants named Reuben and Gedor Aldeen left Rockford’s formidable National Lock Co. to establish the Aldeen Manufacturing Co. Trained as mechanics before they came to America, Reuben Aldeen had served as National Lock’s superintendent of tool, machine, and maintenance, and Gedor was the firm’s vice-president of engineering.
Along with the Aldeens came a select group of other National Lock workers. Together, these ten men comprised what some believe to be the first U.S. manufacturing company to concentrate solely on the production of cabinet hardware. Until that time, the hardware in most American kitchens was relatively basic and highly functional. Aldeen and his counterparts were convinced that Americans would buy more decorative matching hardware that enhanced the appearance of their kitchens and homes.
The new enterprise first rented space in the city’s knitting district, on the 12th floor of a 13-story structure on South Main Street known as the William Ziock Building. Constructed in two phases between 1918 and 1924, the Ziock Building was long recognized as the first “skyscraper” in Rockford. It was owned by knitting company Ziock Industries Inc. Aldeen Manufacturing Co. initially occupied half of the 12th floor of this structure, which was sometimes referred to as the Tower Building. According to Amerock, the equipment used to manufacture products during the company’s first year was especially crude, consisting of “porcelain iceboxes and car batteries for plating.” However, the operation was a success, resulting in first-year sales of approximately $69,000.
When the 1930s arrived, Aldeen’s company changed its name to American Cabinet Hardware Corp. The prosperity that Americans had enjoyed during the 1920s gave way to unfortunate times during the 1930s. The stock market crashed in October 1929, and the Great Depression followed. Building permits in Rockford fell from roughly 6,000 in 1928 to 11 in 1931, and a mere two in 1934. As factories closed and workers lost their jobs, more than 8,000 families went on work relief by 1935.
Amidst these difficult times, American Cabinet Hardware found success. By 1933, the company unveiled a solid lineup of matched kitchen hardware. According to the December 13, 1955 Rockford Register Republic, “Amerock introduced new, modern designs of drawer pulls, knobs, hinges, and ‘push button’ catches in beautiful ‘matched’ ensembles. Improved mechanical features made the hardware easier to install and operate.”
The company’s first customers were cabinet manufacturers like American Central, Boro Wood, Curtis, Del-Mar, Farley & Loetscher, Geneva Modern, Hot-Point, Kitchen Maid, Lyon, Morgan, Mutschler, Shirley, Coppes Inc., and Youngstown Steel. However, hardware dealers soon wanted the company’s products to sell at retail. Thus, American Cabinet Hardware’s two main market niches were established.
In addition to its success through these channels, the manufacturer received its first order from Andersen Windows in 1932. This initial order developed into a strong business relationship that was critical to the company’s early growth, helping sales to reach $3 million by the end of the 1930s. By this time, things were going so well that the company purchased 15 acres of land in the southeastern part of the city. Even though plenty of capacity was still available in the Ziock Building, American Cabinet Hardware bought the acreage with future expansion in mind.
In 1940, American Cabinet Hardware combined portions of the words “American” and “Rockford” to create a new brand name called “Amerock.” The brand’s patriotic ring could not have come at a better timer: by the end of the following year, America was at war. World War II created a challenging environment for U.S. manufacturers, as the military demanded large amounts of resources for wartime production. However, despite these conditions American Cabinet Hardware found continued prosperity. In 1941, the company obtained a small, 40,000-square-foot manufacturing plant on Seminary Street from the Old Colony Furniture Co. By 1942, the manufacturer occupied all 13 floors of the Ziock Building, which it purchased three years later for about $300,000.
In 1947, American Cabinet Hardware built a one-story warehouse on the Harrison Avenue property it had acquired in the late 1930s. The following year, the company was recognized by the state employment commission of the American Legion for its commitment to employing handicapped people, especially disabled veterans. The award came after the commission reviewed 422 Rockford-area employers. According to the October 7, 1948 Rockford Morning Star, at the time more than 22 percent of the manufacturer’s 1,112 employees were veterans. Approximately 5 percent (57) of all employees were handicapped, 22 of whom were veterans. By the end of the 1940s, annual sales had climbed to $7 million, more than doubling in ten years.
Major Expansion Begins: 1950-64
After establishing a strong foothold during its first two decades of operation, American Cabinet Hardware entered a period of rapid growth and expansion in the 1950s. In March 1950, the company announced plans to build a six-story, $400,000 addition to its 13-story plant. At this time, American Cabinet Hard ware relied on a number of specialized machines—many of which it designed and manufactured in-house—to produce a broad offering of cabinet hardware. These machines were part of a highly organized manufacturing process that created beautiful finished hardware from raw material such as steel coils.
Also in 1950, American Cabinet Hardware expanded internationally by establishing American Cabinet Hardware Limited. The new Canadian company was based in Meaford, Ontario, and employed about 125 workers who produced for the Canadian market the same hardware manufactured in Rockford. A major development occurred in late 1953 when the Aldeens announced plans to build a new, $3 million plant on Auburn Street. In addition, they revealed that operations at the other two facilities in Rockford (Seminary Street and Harrison Avenue) would be moved to the new facility, and that the Ziock Building would be sold for $500,000 to L.C. Miller and Associates.
In 1954, another member of the Aldeen family joined American Cabinet Hardware’s executive ranks. Norris G. Aldeen, who joined the company in 1933 as an apprentice toolmaker and gradually assumed positions involving greater responsibility, was named vice-president of manufacturing. Prior to this role, he had served as the company’s personnel director.
American Cabinet Hardware continued to lease the Ziock Building from its new owners until 1956, when construction of the new Auburn Street facility was complete. The company’s new plant was built on a $44,000 tract of land spanning almost 95 acres. The facility itself included ten acres of floor space, a 300-seat cafeteria, and 1,000 parking spaces for the firm’s 1,800 workers. Shortly before the company moved into its new physical plant, another major change took place in 1956 when American Cabinet Hardware Corp. adopted the name of its flagship brand and officially became Amerock Corporation. The change was made because the Amerock name had become more recognizable than the company’s name.
It was not long before Amerock announced plans to expand its new plant. The need for more manufacturing space led to construction of a 40,000-square-foot addition, built at the cost of $250,000. Construction was to be completed by early 1960. It also was in 1959 that Amerock repurchased the former Ziock building for storage purposes.
When the 1960s arrived, the Aldeen family was still very much in control of Amerock. Gedor Aldeen remained chairman and Reuben Aldeen was president. Norris Aldeen had been promoted to administrative vice-president in 1961, and then executive vice-president the following year. By this time, the company’s offerings fell into one of three hardware categories: appliance, cabinet, and window. Amerock had developed an excellent reputation within the industry. In 1961, American Builder magazine presented the manufacturer with a quality award at the National Association of Home Builders show. The award was given per the recommendation of a San Diego-based construction firm, which claimed Amerock’s products increased homes’ sal ability.
Our commitment is to bring new products to the market that reflect consumer buying patterns and kitchen design preferences. Amerock offers exclusive designs crafted by Amerock artisans as well as the time-honored classics. All are produced with careful attention to quality and style, which makes the difference in how our products look and perform.
In 1964, Amerock announced yet another addition to its enormous Auburn Street plant. That September, the company revealed plans to add 98,000 square feet at a cost of $800,000, relieving overcrowding and increasing manufacturing space by roughly 25 percent. Part of the addition, totaling 28,000 square feet, was made to finish off the east end of the plant where two previous additions had been made. Besides this, a two-story structure was planned for the northeast corner of the plant. The upper level was to be used for manufacturing and the bottom for additional storage. At this time, an expansion effort also was underway at Amerock’s Canadian plant. The fourth since 1950, the addition increased that facility’s size by almost one-third.
Ownership Changes: 1965-87
In February 1965, Norris Aldeen became president of Amerock. He was at the company’s helm when it announced a $32 million merger with New Britain, Connecticut-based toolmaker Stanley Works. Effective August 1, 1966, Amerock became a subsidiary of Stanley. In addition to his role at Amerock, Norris Aldeen became vice-president of the Stanley Works and a member of its board and executive committee. On April 30, 1968, almost two years after the merger occurred, the Federal Trade Commission “filed a complaint charging the merger violated the Clayton Anti-Trust Act and had the potential for cornering the general hardware and cabinet hardware market,” as explained in the November 24, 1969 Rockford Register Republic. Amerock contested the FTC’s claim, and the issue was not resolved until the 1970s.
Amerock ended the 1960s with another expansion of its physical plant. This time, the addition totaled 95,000 square feet and cost $1 million. The project, which involved several phases, increased the company’s office space by 15,000 square feet while boosting manufacturing space by 80,000 square feet. Overall, the total size of the Auburn Street facility grew to 650,000 square feet.
Amerock started the early 1970s at a fast pace, achieving record sales in 1971 thanks to a number of new product introductions, as well as strong housing starts. In addition, employment increased at the manufacturer, reaching levels of about 1,900 workers. It also was in 1971 that the Federal Trade Commission instructed Stanley to sell Amerock by 1973, and to refrain from acquiring a similar company for a period of ten years without first getting the commission’s blessing. Although Stanley made an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973, the high court refused to hear the matter. Thus, a lower court decision that Amerock should be sold remained intact.
In 1973, Amerock achieved yet another year of record sales. The company also expanded again, acquiring a 60,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Winnebago, Illinois, and adding 90,000 square feet of shipping and warehouse space at the Auburn Street plant. By 1974, Norris Aldeen had become Amerock’s chairman, and Roger Linderoth was serving as president. In November, Lancaster, Ohio-based Anchor-Hocking Corp.—a manufacturer of kitchenware with sales of $367 million—announced that it had acquired Amerock for $32 million. The change in ownership became effective in October of 1975, after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Canadian government approved the acquisition.
By the late 1970s, a strong housing market had benefited Amerock considerably, leading to a 30 percent sales increase in 1976 and an estimated 12 percent increase in 1977. Massive market penetration also had been attained; about 70 percent of American kitchens included Amerock products. The following year, Amerock received industry-wide recognition for its promotional programs and innovative in-store packaging when Building Supply News presented the manufacturer with three industry awards. According to the company, during the 1970s Amerock’s promotional efforts had grown to include mobile marketing tactics. Vans were used to showcase Amerock’s product lines, which included display units, drawer systems, and items incorporating combinations of porcelain, metal, and wood.
During the 1980s, Amerock was challenged by an economic recession. As a securities analyst explained in the December 2, 1984 Rockford Register Star, a poor housing market between 1979 and 1982 took a heavy toll on the company’s profits. Thus, during the early 1980s Amerock began implementing measures to save money, including layoffs. Guiding the manufacturer during these difficult times was Larry E. Gloyd, a long-time Amerock employee who was named president in 1982.
- Reuben and Gedor Aldeen leave Rockford’s National Lock Co. to establish the Aldeen Manufacturing Co.
- The company name changes to American Cabinet Hardware Corporation.
- A solid lineup of matched kitchen hardware is introduced.
- Annual sales reach $3 million.
- American Cabinet Hardware combines portions of the words “American” and “Rockford” to create a new brand name called Amerock.
- Annual sales reach $7 million.
- American Cabinet Hardware Corp. adopts the name of its flagship brand and officially becomes Amerock Corporation.
- Norris Aldeen becomes president of Amerock.
- Amerock becomes a subsidiary of Stanley Works in a $32 million merger.
- The Federal Trade Commission instructs Stanley to sell Amerock, having deemed the merger illegal.
- Ohio-based Anchor-Hocking Corp. acquires Amerock for $32 million.
- Larry E. Gloyd, a long-time Amerock employee, is named president.
- Don Sell, president of Amerock’s Canadian operation, replaces Gloyd.
- Newell Co. acquires Amerock parent Anchor Hocking Corp.
- Amerock achieves sales of $200 million.
- New leadership ensues as Robert W. Bailey is named Amerock’s president.
In 1983, the housing market began to improve and Amerock diversified its product line to offset dependence on cyclical housing starts. Part of its diversification strategy included the acquisition of Safe Hardware in 1982, as well as a Missouri-based lock manufacturer in 1984. However, despite better profitability, times were still tough. In late 1984, Amerock announced a number of cuts to its compensation program. No cost-of-living increases were given to workers that year, and bonuses for supervisors also ceased.
Despite these difficult conditions, Amerock continued to invest in its future. In the mid-1980s, the company revealed plans to enhance quality control initiatives and make production processes more modern and efficient. It also began implementing strategies to help offset the effects of competition from Asian firms. As the 1980s progressed, Amerock was forced to be more flexible with customers in what had become a highly competitive environment. Along with these measures, the company kept rolling out new products in tandem with effective merchandising strategies.
In September 1986, Gloyd left Amerock to become president and chief operating officer of J.L. Clark Co., a Rockford-based packaging company. Don Sell, who had been serving as president of Amerock’s Canadian operation, replaced Gloyd. However, even bigger changes took place when, in July 1987, Freeport, Illinois-based Newell Co. (which eventually became Newell Rubbermaid Inc.) acquired Amerock parent Anchor Hocking Corp. for $340 million.
Life With Newell: 1988 and Beyond
As part of the Newell acquisition, Richard F. Krug replaced Sell as Amerock’s president. However, Krug left the organization in October 1989, leaving Newell executive Tom Ferguson in charge. Amerock benefited from its new ownership arrangement, which provided strong financial backing. The company continued to introduce new products, including a new line of concealed hinges in 1993. That year, Amerock forged a joint agreement with Lama d.d., in which Amerock would market the Slovenia-based firm’s concealed hinges in the United States. On the financial front, Amerock achieved sales of $200 million by 1994, a healthy increase over levels of $180 million in 1988.
According to Amerock, during the 1990s the company also increased the efficiency of its manufacturing processes, further consolidated operations, and received ISO 9001 certification. By 1998, Richard Krause was serving as Amerock’s president. At this time, the company was targeting home improvement retailers such as Lowe’s and Menard’s with a strategy to cross-sell Amerock cabinet hardware with cabinetry from other manufacturers. As part of the strategy, Amerock began developing special order displays that eliminated inventory requirements for retailers.
In September 2002, Robert W. Bailey was named Amerock’s president. By this time, the company had changed considerably from the days of the Aldeen brothers. It had weathered numerous challenges and ownership changes. Likewise, Amerock’s products—which began with a simple, yet innovative idea—had evolved with the times. They remained in-demand with consumers and builders alike, boding well for the company’s future.
Hunter Douglas Inc.
“Amerock’s Answer Man. New Company President Looks to Bright Future,” Rockford Register Star, December 8, 1986, 1D.
“Amerock Approves Merger,” Rockford Morning Star, July 30, 1966.
“Amerock Divestiture Completion By November 3,” Rockford Register Republic, October 27, 1975.
“Amerock Fights Back,” Rockford Register Star, December 2, 1984.
“Amerock Name is Official Now,” Rockford Morning Star, April 6, 1956.
“Amerock Plans Economy Moves,” Rockford Register Star, November 27, 1984.
“Amerock Sold for $32 Million,” Rockford Morning Star, November 21, 1974.
“Heading for a Billion: Major Acquisition Bringing Newell Toward a Record Sales Mark,” Barron’s, August 24, 1987, pp. 39-40.
Lundin, Jon W., Rockford: An Illustrated History, Tarzana, California: American Historical Press, 1996.
“Sale of Amerock Highlight of Year,” Rockford Morning Star, January 23, 1975.
—Paul R. Greenland