A tornado. Two devastating fires. The Great Depression. Two world wars.
For 111 years, the Vernon Company in Newton has survived it all, and thrived.
“We’ve been fortunate. The company has been successful,” Vernon Company President Chris Vernon said. “That is thanks to the efforts of literally thousands of people who have worked for us over the years.”
One hundred twenty-five current employees, as well as several dozen Vernon Company retirees were honored Tuesday with a special luncheon in the company’s south parking lot. In all, nearly 170 were in attendance, including Newton Mayor Michael Hanson, Greater Newton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Darrell Sarmento and Progress Industries President and CEO Dan Skokan.
Those in attendance dined on grilled steak and chicken breast, vegetables and potato salad catered by Hy-Vee, Mike’s Homemade Ice Cream and Cupcakes by Barb Ferguson. A number of prizes were given away, as well.
Following the meal, Chairman and CEO Bill Vernon spoke briefly about where the company has been, touching on a few highlights of the past 111 years. Chris Vernon then spoke about where the company was going.
“I’ve been with the company for 26 years now. It’s gone by so quickly, which is a good thing,” he said in an inteview after the event. “We’re proud to be a part of Newton, and to be a good community leader and partner. We’re always planning for the future — everything we do is looking toward the future — because we hope to be here for another 100 years.”
The Vernon Company is one of only 30 family-owned companies in the United States that have been operation for more than 100 years and are still doing the same work as it did at its founding. According to its founder, F.L. Vernon, who started the business in 1902, The Vernon Company’s primary mission is to “help other companies grow and prosper” through promotional-advertising for corporate identity needs.
The Vernon Company designs, manufactures, imports and distributes an unlimited selection of quality promotional advertising products, such as apparel, business gifts, drinkware, writing instruments, office accessories, calendars, kitchen utenils, knives, and graphics and decals.
The Vernon Company is one of the largest and most successful promotional advertising firms in North America. It currently employs 350 account executives and 135 administration and production employees while serving more than 30,000 customers.
In addition to its corporate headquarters in Newton, the company also has subsidiary businesses located in Missouri and New Jersey.
Chris Vernon also unveiled a new addition to the company’s array of artwork. Last year, after a tree was felled during a storm, the Vernon Company employed former Newton resident and chainsaw artist Gary Keenan to create the cardinal carving that is currently on display in the south parking lot.
“The cardinal had a baby,” Chris Vernon said, as he unveiled the smaller cardinal carving Keenan has created. The carving will be displayed inside the corporate headquarters building, either in the conference room, or in Bill Vernon’s office.
The Vernon Company also had on display an assortment of promotional products the company sold during its 111-year history. The display was assembled on the shipping floor in the basement of the headquarters building.
Over the years, despite being overshadowed by the influence of Maytag, the Vernon Company has consistently played a role in the community, beyond the jobs it provides. Each year, the company donates thousands of dollars (in both regular and in-kind product donations) to several local charities and fundraising efforts.
“The United Way is big in this company, as is Progress Industries — my father was instrumental in getting it started in 1979,” Chris Vernon said. “But, it doesn’t matter what it is — Relay for Life, Thanks with Franks — we’re involved in that.”