Crest Ink - Volume 32 - Number 04 & Volume 33 - Number 01

Facing Disasters

by Jeff Meiners

If a person stays in one place long enough, they gain a perspective that can only be seen through the lens of the passage of time. Crest Foods is amongst some of my earliest childhood memories and since I’m a little north of sixty years old…I have many Crest memories. While people will always be at the top of my list of Crest memories, the many situations we have faced as a company also make the highlight reel. A recent blurb in the “50 years ago” column in the Ashton Gazette brought back a memory and I thought it might be interesting to look at some of the natural disasters we have faced and survived as a company…fire, flood, wind and now plague. Fifty years ago Crest had a warehouse where the Mimini Market stands today. We were obviously a much smaller company then and it really wasn’t much of a building, but it caught on fire and burned to the ground along with everything in it. It was a spectacular fire that was fed by all the cardboard we stored there. It was the kind of thing that a kid would really get into watching and we all lined up to watch the destruction. Despite the spectacle of the fire, the thing that sticks out most in my memory was Dick Moeller, the plant manager, throwing bundles of boxes out of the back door of the building while flames were shooting through the roof so we’d have enough supplies to run the next day. I wouldn’t have been aware if we ran the next morning, but I bet we didn’t miss a beat. We built a new warehouse, one that wouldn’t burn so easily… Thirty-three years ago on an August night it rained hard and long enough in Northern Illinois that there was talk that Noah might be working on an ark again. Our warehouse was on the south side of Ashton at the time and much of the water from the overloaded storm sewer system headed that direction. The resulting flood itself wasn’t all that bad, but we had a three inch deep river running through our finished product warehouse. That might have not been that big of deal either except for the fact that most of our product was stored pallet-less resulting in the bottom layer of boxes getting very wet and most were stacked four high. Funny thing, wet cardboard has no strength and ultimately every single box of finished product ended up in a big pile on the floor when they all started to collapse. Through the heroic efforts of many, the entire warehouse was sorted by hand, box by box, from the endless pile of cases and while we lost a good portion of our finished inventory…we were back in business in a matter of days. We ultimately built a new warehouse, one that wouldn’t burn or flood so easily… Five years ago on an April evening, the first tornado of the year in our area decided that its path of destruction would lead in straight through the West edge of our warehouse West of Ashton. Miraculously no one was hurt, but it sure left a mess behind. This was by far the biggest disaster we had dealt with so far. The clean-up, the reconstruction, the scheduling, the accounting and the demand on peoples’ time was great, but it brought out the best in everyone and we were back in business in a matter of days due to the determination, hard work and ingenu- ity of all involved. This time we didn’t even think of relocating…we simply built it back up on the same foundation that it was built on the first time. Today we are dealing with a different kind of disaster. A situation that leaves us uncertain on how to fix it, we take it home with us every day and it is there when we wake up in the morning and we have no idea when it is going

18 Crest Ink October, November, December 2020 & January, February, March 2021

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