Closing of 112-Year Old Factory Hits Minnesota Town Hard

Store Closed

The “Diamond” brand match and toothpick factory in Cloquet, Minnesota is set to shutter its doors after 112 years, leading to 85 job losses and an economic void in the small town of 12,000.

Newell Brands Inc, recent owner of the Diamond brand, announced on May 1 that it will be closing the factory after selling the Diamond brand to Georgia-based Royal Oak Enterprises, LLC. Before the acquisition, Royal Oak toured the Diamond mill and decided that it only wanted the brand and products, not the factory.

“Newell Brands will no longer retain Diamond matches and toothpicks, which are manufactured at the facility,” said a company statement. “As a result, the company has made the difficult decision to close the Cloquet facility, which is expected to occur within six months.” (Source: Ibid.)

The earliest incarnation of the Diamond match plant dates back to 1905. At its peak in the 1940s, the plant employed about 600 people. In addition to Diamond-branch matches, the company also made toothpicks, clothes pins, chopsticks, tongue depressors, corn-dog sticks, and sticks for ice cream bars.

Over the years, the company has changed in many ways: new warehouses were added and machines were upgraded. It also went through a number of mergers; Diamond Match became Diamond Gardner, Diamond National, and Diamond International.

By 1989, there were only two wooden matchstick plants in the country. Cloquet’s factory once operated three shifts, five days a week. But demand for the company’s products waned, because it was cheaper to get products from overseas. Eventually, the plant operated only a single shift.

Jarden Home Brands bought the company out of bankruptcy in 2003 and continued to offer three Diamond products: toothpicks, kitchen matches, and penny matches. It also diversified into new products, such as colored toothpicks and long-reach matches.

Newell Brands Inc—which owns popular brands “Rubbermaid,” “Sharpie,” “Jostens,” and “Marmot”—merged with Jarden Home Brands last spring.

The 350,000-square-foot building, which sits on 38 acres on the edge of downtown, may only employ 85 people, but the closedown is still a big economic shock for a small town and it highlights the loss of manufacturing jobs that were once plentiful in Minnesota.

Officers at Newell say the company will provide whatever resources it can to help the 85 people who will lose their jobs. In a released statement, Newell said, “We have been a proud partner in Cloquet for years and are committed to ensuring ample resources and support for the 85 employees affected.”

Unfortunately, factory jobs are scarce in Cloquet, and the plant closing puts a strain on the local economy, with fears that the small town will get even smaller.

Sources:

Mill and Cloquet make a great match,” Pine Journal, November 2, 2015.

112-Year-Old Cloquet Match Stick Factory Closing,” CBS Minnesota, May 8, 2017.

Cloquet match mill to close; 85 to lose jobs,” Deluth News Tribune, May 1, 2017.

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