Get a sneak preview of the upcoming issue of HV Mfg, due out in April. This is an excerpt from our interview with Ben Katzenstein, President of Star Kay White:
HV Mfg: Tell us about Start Kay White, What do you make and how did you come to lead the company?
BK: My Great Grandfather, David Katzenstein founded Star Extract Works New York City in 1890. He was an immigrant from Germany. He and his brother developed and sold flavors and extracts, like vanilla, chocolate, peppermint, cinnamon, rose, strawberry, and rum. They sold to local bakers, brewers, distillers, bottlers through New York, Pennsylvania, and New England. Just prior to World War I we entered the confectionary business in particular servicing ice cream businesses. David partnered with Warren White of the White-Stokes Company of Chicago, to create Kay-White Products, and opened a factory in Newark, New Jersey. Now, two of David’s companies were in the food business, making flavor extracts and confections for ice cream. During the First World War the business really took off. My grandfather, Miles joined the company and his brother, Carl, who was in the Army, joined the company after the war. There were lots of ups and downs – the crash of 1929 hurt the company badly and the depression years were lean. My father, Walter, joined the company in 1950 and became president in 1990. By the time I joined the company in 1984 we had long term business relationships with Breyers, Sealtest, Borden’s, Hershey, Howard Johnson’s, Friendly’s, Haagen Dazs, Turkey Hill, Perry’s, Ben & Jerrys.
Still, growth was slow. The Great Depression had a long term impact on the company’s character: we were very conservative. In 1940 we had 10 employees by 1984 when we moved out of the Bronx to Congers we had 16. In 1998 my brother and I, with backing of our dad, bought my cousin David out of the business. My father was president until just a few years ago when I took that title. Today we have 98,000 square feet in Congers and 127 employees.