Wednesday, December 28, 2016 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 10:23 p.m.
During a Dec. 16 community meeting hosted by Village Free Press at the Maywood Public Library, I spoke with Martin F. Casey, (pictured left) the grandson of the famous black entrepreneur S.B. Fuller, (pictured below).
Fuller, who died in 1988 at 83 years old, started the famous Fuller Products Company. According to his New York Times obituary, Fuller started the company with $25, “buying soap and then selling it door to door. He later used these sales techniques to offer 30 items of a little-known line of cosmetics. His business grew and he began producing his own cosmetics and allied products, which became nationally known.”
By 1963, the Times noted, Fuller’s company had grown to “more than 3,000 sales representatives in 38 states and Mr. Fuller controlled eight other corporations, including a department store in Chicago, a real estate trust in New York, farming and cattle interests and the Courier chain of newspapers serving black audiences in Chicago, New York, Detroit and Pittsburgh.”
Casey, who owns a construction company, car wash and Dudley Products distributorship, among other businesses, said that he’s looking to relaunch the Fuller Product brand and is considering setting up a manufacturing facility somewhere in Maywood.
So far, his plans are very preliminary. In a brief interview earlier this month, Casey, who said that he’s been scouting some potential locations, explained why Maywood is on his radar. He also talked about Aldi’s decision, made earlier this month, to close its Maywood location.
So, why Maywood?
The reason I want to bring the manufacturing here is because we need products now. We have a full line of natural products, as well as the original Fuller products, that we’re going to bring back. The Maywood manufacturing facility would make the natural line products.
I have a friend, Sy Bounds, who lives out here and he told me that there’s a lot of opportunity in Maywood. Where there is plight, there’s always opportunity. And with Aldi moving, that means there’s an even bigger opportunity, because you’re going to get other companies moving here, too.
But you have to give businesses incentives, for instance by offering them tax breaks and gas breaks. Some of this is subsidized by the community, but in the long run, how many people can you employ in an up-and-coming manufacturing company? Thousands. I’m not saying I’m going to start with that figure, but it’s a gradual push upward. I’d need the support of the community to purchase the products, which are geared toward black consumers.
On the Fuller Company’s philosophy
We educate people. We have different organizations within this organization that educate young people in business and entrepreneurship. You have to have a mindset and it’s a mindset that Fuller taught.
Have you approached the Maywood Board of Trustees or village officials about your plans?
I don’t have to ask anyone’s permissions. If I do the manufacturing, I may have to come to them for zoning purposes. But, ultimately, either I decide to pay the taxes or I don’t. I could also say, ‘The taxes are too high and how are you willing to help me?’
I know a lot of businesses have moved out of here because of the taxes. The funeral home on Madison [Corbin Colonia], that one is closed because they were charging the guy more than 100,000 of taxes. The square footage isn’t even worth that. The tax for the square footage is just too much.
What kind of community support are you looking for ahead of deciding whether or not you’ll come to Maywood?
I’ll need the support of the community as a whole. People need to signal that they’ll support the company if, and when, we do get here; that they’ll support us with their dollars. Your dollar will be staying in the community.
I’m renting a home in Bellwood right now and my girlfriend owns a beauty salon there. Why can’t we have the salon in Maywood? The question is are people going to support it. That’s the thing.
Aldi isn’t moving because they don’t like Maywood, but because they can’t make any money here. The purpose of business is to make money. If you don’t make money, you can’t stay open and you cannot employ people.
Can you talk a bit more about the Aldi?
The community could’ve franchised Aldi. It could’ve been bought by the people who live here. With every dollar you have and can muster, you could’ve bought that franchise if that’s what they wanted to do.
They’re going to sale that building, but the problem is that it hasn’t sat long enough. The longer a building sits, the more valuable it is to the buyer, because that means it’s been blighted and you can get more incentives. Right now, the building probably costs too much.
The bottom-line is that we need to have the people who live in the community owning their own businesses, so the money won’t leave out of the community. If you own real estate and property in a neighborhood, but you don’t live there, then you’re taking money out of a community that needs it. VFP
Photo of Fuller: Mr. S.B. Fuller, president of the Fuller Products Corporation and chairman of the Negro Chamber of Commerce addressing a meeting of the forum in Chicago, Illinois at the Ida B. Wells Housing Project. | Caption by Wikipedia || Jack Delano/Library of Congress