1922 – Montgomery City, Missouri. Sixteen-year-old Marion K. (Bill) Summers had dropped out of school, didn’t have a job, and was broke. Determined to succeed, Summers began selling a silver cleaner, which he had made himself, to ladies in a church group. The ladies sold the cleaner as a fund raiser. Summers traveled throughout the Midwest by interurban seeking a market for his product, then came up with the idea of making a “better” vanilla – better than the imitations being offered.
1925 – Springfield, Missouri. With $20 in his pocket, an automobile, a crock, and a dream, Bill Summers made his first Pure Vanilla under the name of Marion Chemical Company. The product was first sold to American Legion Auxiliary, Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
1928 – St. Louis, Missouri. Summers moved his business to this Mississippi River town and changed its name to Marion-Kay Products Company. Summers survived the depression years by offering a wide variety of products to appeal to those folks who couldn’t afford a bottle of vanilla.
1940 – St. Louis, Missouri. Gasoline rationing during World War II forced Summers into the mail order business. He purchased a minimal amount of printing equipment, eventually added more equipment and expanded into a full service print shop.
1948 – People start baking again and sales of vanilla begin to soar. Summers came up with another idea: offer a 48-cup electric coffee urn free to any group selling 36 bottles of Marion-Kay vanilla at a cost of $1 each. Sales took off and Summers shipped millions of bottles of vanilla as well as other flavors and spices to virtually every city, village, and hamlet in the United States.
1949 – By chance, Summers visits Brownstown, Indiana, during a camping trip and located a the vacant building, formally known as the Thompson Sled Company, but yet suitable for his steadily expanding business, which had outgrown its facilities in St. Louis. Summers brought faithful employees, including his son in-law, James R. Reid (husband of Madelyn Reid, Summers’ eldest daughter) to the 50,000 sq. ft. building and added a complete line of spices, including the nationally famous Marion Kay Black Granulated “sneezeless” Pepper and a specially blended Seasoned Salt.
1965 – Summers agrees to custom blend a special chicken seasoning in bulk packaging for Colonel Harland Sanders, founder of the Original Kentucky Fried Chicken. Bulk sales of spices and seasonings to restaurants soars.
1968 - The business continues to grow through individual mail order program and fund-raising plans. Chefs from around the nation become quite familiar with the consistent quality of the Marion-Kay Products Company.
1972 - The company celebrates its 50th Anniversary with an open house attended by a number of renowned celebrities.
1984 - Founder, M.K. “Bill” Summers passes and his wife, Minette (Rebstock) Summers, assumes the position of President of the Company.
1986 – Marion-Kay Products Company is purchased by Madelyn Reid, the eldest daughter of founder M.K. Summers, and her husband Jim Reid. The spice market is directed heavily toward the restaurant and food service industry with special emphasis on the development of bulk spices and custom blending. Joining the management team are John Reid and Kordell Reid, grandsons of the founder. John Reid takes over the sales department and the company aligns itself with food distributors in the Midwest. The company officially dba Marion-Kay Spices, under the ReidCo, Inc. corporation.
1989 – Marion-Kay Spices, ReidCo., Inc. advances its technical abilities with the installation of a computer network designed to expedite the processing of customer orders, shipment capabilities, and total manufacturing and accounting functions.
1990’s – Marion-Kay Spices, ReidCo., Inc. continues to advance with technology and automated machinery specifically designed to enhance the quality of the finished product and the availability to expand the private label and custom blending divisions of the company. The company officially opens the Marion-Kay Spice Store, located inside the factory and open to the public. In 1994, J Scot Reid, a great-grandson of the founder joins the management team. In 1996, PresidentJames Reid, passed away and his wife Madelyn Reid assumes the title of President of the company. At the time of her death in 1999, the company is purchased by her children John Reid, Kordell Reid, and Pamela Warren.
2000 – Marion-Kay Spices, ReidCo., Inc. knows that eating and dining habits undergo significant changes through a seven to ten year period, altering the stability of the food service industry. Fine-dining establishments are expected to cater more to a cuisine dominated by enhanced European and Asian tastes. As a result, the fast food conglomerates, as we know them today, will begin to limit growth of menu items.
2002 – Marion-Kay Spices, ReidCo., Inc. hosted a week long of events in celebration of the 80th Anniversary with an Open House and a re-grand opening of the Marion-Kay Spice Store in October.
2003 – Marion-Kay Spices, ReidCo., Inc. launches a full line of spices under the name J.R. Mad’s. The popular and successful label includes a full line of tangy, southwest, and unique blends.
2004 – J.R. Mad’s Madgic Fish Breading becomes the official fish breading of the Crappie USA Fishing Tournaments.
2007 – John Reid passed away and Kordell Reid assumes the position of company President and Pam Warren is promoted to vice-President.
2009 – The company celebrates the win of local resident Katie Stam on becoming Indiana’s first Miss America with the debut of the Miss America Katie Stam Seasoning. The company donated all of the proceeds from the sale of this All-American spice blend to the Miss America Scholarship Program.
2012 – Marion-Kay Spices, ReidCo. Inc. celebrates 90 successful years with an open house in October of 2012.
Marion Kay Spices will continue to open new markets in the continental United States, specializing in custom blending for particular regional tastes. And yes – Marion-Kay Spices will continue to acknowledge that any success with new products is to in no small way to that original thought: “The Only Way To Beat The Competition Is To Make A Better Product”.