Rick Wells celebrates Magnolia Plastics’ 50th anniversary with members of the Baltimore Ravens cheerleading squad.

This year, Chamblee, GA-based Magnolia Plastics Inc. celebrates its 50th year as a provider of high-performance stock and custom-formulated epoxy systems. It is estimated that every major commercial or general-aviation aircraft manufacturer in the world currently uses Magnolia products. Also, the company has developed more than 2,000 products over the years, and counts among its many clients representatives of the construction, automotive, and marine industries - not bad for a business that started in the basement of a house in suburban Atlanta.

Family Business

In 1957, a research chemist named Don Wells found himself at a crossroad: take a promotion from his employer, Shell Chemical, and move from Atlanta to New York City, or go into business for himself in the relatively new epoxies manufacturing industry. While it was true that Shell did not offer vice president positions to just anyone, Don and his wife Jo had lived in New York before, and it wasn’t their preferred place to raise four children. In the end, Don did what was best for his family: he cut ties with Shell and went to work developing, manufacturing, and selling epoxy products from the basement of his home. A team player from the start, Jo handled shipping and bookkeeping.

Though its first fiscal year left something to be desired ($700 in receipts, more in expenses), Magnolia landed its first big customer, Lockheed, in 1958 and expanded its production capability by renting an old bakery in nearby Roswell. The following year, having quickly established a reputation for good customer service, reasonable prices and high-quality products, the company moved to Chamblee, where it would build a new 3,000-sq.-ft. facility on a two-lane dirt road called Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.

Now and Later

No longer the dirt road of yesteryear, the Peachtree Industrial Boulevard of 2007 is now a five-lane thoroughfare carrying more than 50,000 cars a day. Magnolia Plastics Inc. has seen some changes as well: its current workspace occupies 35,000 sq. ft. of space, and it has begun to provide an increasing number of products to market through private labeling - this in addition to custom packages designed to help customers meet specific end-use needs.

According to current owner and manager Rick Wells, Magnolia’s recent growth (sales have increased 80% over the past four years) may be attributed to the implementation of a more aggressive business philosophy than was used in years past. “The difference since I’ve taken over is that I wish to build the company,” he says. “My father got it up to about 25 employees, and he was comfortable with that size.  I believe that this company has a different future, though, and that’s the reason we’ve taken everything directly international and we’re out actively soliciting contacts overseas.”

Though he’s presently searching for an additional 100,000 sq. ft. of production space to accommodate this growth, Wells has no intention of moving Magnolia out of the metro Atlanta area. “We have a very, very good core of 35 employees here, and I want to make sure we retain everybody, if we can,” he says. “We don’t want to make the same mistakes other companies have made; we want to try and keep everybody.”

For more information on Magnolia Plastics Inc., visit www.magnoliaplastics.com.