It was the early 1960s and Norm Elliot found his business of selling phonographs and records to Sears dwindling as the music distribution business changed.
One day over lunch with the former record buyer at Sears, Norm discovered the gentleman had taken a new position as the floor care buyer for the retailer and was looking to carry its own brand of rug shampoo and floor detergent. Born with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, Norm volunteered to develop these new products for Sears; even without any way to make them. He quickly found a small operation in Peotone, Illinois to produce the products and subsequently became the sole supplier of rug shampoo and floor detergent to Sears under the newly founded company name Elco Chemicals.
Orders grew quickly from Sears, many on the back of a lunch napkin back in those early days, according to Norm’s son Bill. Norm’s philosophy of “getting the job done and done right” paid off quickly.
Sales of the Sears private label of floor products soared, and the retailer asked Elco to develop other cleaners for humidifiers, rotary floor polishers, and other appliances. Norm’s son Bill joined the company in 1972, and went to work on the manufacturing floor learning how to blend, mix and distribute the cleaning products---primarily by hand.
Bill soon realized the company needed to automate its development and production, as well as add more filling capacity to keep up with the demand. In 1973, Elco moved its manufacturing from Peotone to their own 12,000 square foot facility in South Chicago, allowing for expansion to three filling lines.
That same year, Sears developed the very first consumer steam cleaning machine and needed a complete line of products to support their national launch. Luckily, Elco's expansion to University Park provided them with the capacity to become Sears supplier of these products. Susbequently, Elco continued to grow with the addition of many national clients including Corning Glass Works and Montgomery Ward.
Norm knew that hiring smart people was the key to developing the highest quality products. He focused his superior salesmanship talents on attracting the best chemists and quality control experts to come work at Elco. The strategy of “hiring the best” paid off. Elco became the “go-to” cleaning supply source for companies looking to sell into the fast-growing retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target, as well as manufacturers such as Hoover.
In January of 2015, Chicago Aerosol, one of the largest manufacturers of aerosol products in the United States, purchased Elco's assets and product lines. All of the operations were integrated into one system for manufacturing, customer service and accounting. As one organization, Elco is now able to offer customers access to new research and development talent that has a track record in innovation and results, along with with new state-of-the-art manufacturing capabilities and quality controls.