- Andco Kitchens & Baths Marks 85 Years in Business -
Andco began its long history in 1928 selling appliances such as wringer washers, vacuums, and radios as CE Anderson Electric Co. They were originally located in the old Lundstrom Peterson building on 7th Street, but subsequently moved down the street to a building that stood on the northeast corner of the block where the Amcore building stands today.
Around 1945, they became Anco Distributors, and branched out into the cabinetry business. Prior to this time, cabinetry was typically custom built by a carpenter directly on the job site. These homemade cabinets were not only labor intensive and time-consuming, but very expensive. The industry changed when pre-built metal cabinets became available, but they were produced in only one style and in limited sizes.
Anco quickly outgrew their location, and moved to 1112 5th Avenue into the building that today is Colorlab Custom Cosmetics. They began offering wood cabinets manufactured by Carr Co. to area contractors. Anco Company was one of the first in Rockford that sold and stocked these ready-made cabinets. However, style and size choices to start with were still narrow. "The only style produced at the time was a birch door in a natural maple finish with a veneer maple core cabinet frame," says Roger Olson, former president of Andco Distributors, Inc., and son-in-law to CE Anderson. He goes on to say, "Carr started out as a medium-priced line, but it became a good value for the money."
In 1956, the company passed to the next generation of family partners, who incorporated as Andco Distributors since the Anco name was taken by Anco Wiperblades. They liquidated the small appliance, gift, and dinnerware stock and concentrated on developing its line of cabinetry and kitchen appliances. Carr was becoming more of a high-end custom line of cabinetry, so they searched for a manufacturer that offered more options, but was still affordable to their customers. Aristokraft, one of today's leading cabinet lines, was the answer. Andco was one of Aristokraft's first distributors, providing modern cabinetry and laminate counter tops with a chrome edge to a growing Rockford area.
The need for more warehouse space caused the familiar need for expansion, so Andco again branched out by building on two acres on 15th Street, which is where the corporate office and warehouse still stands today. Originally breaking ground in 1960, business was so good that they have subsequently expanded the building three times.
"We were really going to town, " says Olson. "We were servicing dealers and builders within 75 miles of Rockford. We opened another office in Madison, and started picking up business in Milwaukee and Chicago. Expansion was the key to our success."
Current owner, Paul Johnson, joined the company in 1989 and quickly became the top sales representative. The name changed to Andco Kitchens & Baths, Inc. when he bought the company six years later. "I appreciate the fact that Roger entrusted me with the business," says Johnson. "He worked hard for a long period of time, and he wanted that legacy to continue."
Five years later a 2,700 sq ft showroom opened on Perryville Road, in front of Sam's Club. "If we hadn't opened that store, we'd be out of business," says Johnson. "It's a prime location for our customers."
"We were losing jobs to the big box stores," Johnson continues. "We needed to change lines in order to survive. We reduced the gaps between lines, so now we are more competitive and frequently lower-priced than box stores."
Today, in addition to cabinetry, Andco features granite, quartz, solid surface, and laminate counter tops in a wide variety of colors, options, and manufacturers. "We seldom do any laminate counter tops anymore," Johnson says. "Everything is granite or quartz, due to the fact that granite is eco-friendly, and the way it looks appeals to customers. It's also easier to clean and maintain."
Andco Kitchens & Baths, Inc. serves the entire Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin area, including Rockford, Beloit, Janesville, and the Chicago suburbs. It celebrated 85 years in business in 2013, proving its commitment to service and the community. Referrals remain a significant part of Andco's business. "I put 40 years of hard work into this company," says Olson. "It's wonderful to see it continue. It's gratifying for me to see Paul and his staff doing such a superb job."