Missouri Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe has been getting his kicks on Route 66 throughout much of his summer Missouri Adventure Tour — and on Wednesday, July 24, his travels brought him to Marshfield, home of Goodman’s Flavorings.
Established in 1927 on Route 66 in Carthage, the company eased on down the road to Marshfield nine years ago, where it’s still one of the Mother Road’s treasures.
Mike and Michelle Kimrey are the owners of Goodman's Flavorings. They bought the company from actual Goodmans — Robert and Connie — 15 years ago, and those Goodmans were present during Kehoe’s visit.
Robert is the grandson of the founder, J.W. Goodman, and when asked about his early memories of the company, he recalled working in for his grandfather from his boyhood.
He holds up a hand. "See how that finger’s crooked?" he asks, pointing to the curve of his pointer. "That's from screwing on lids."
Connie also has a wonky finger. It’s a sure tell that someone has been in the pre-mechanical bottling business.
When they had the company, Robert worked on sales routes while Connie spent her days mixing the flavoring formulas, filling bottles by hand (something that still happens at the Goodman’s plant, believe it or not), then bottling, capping and labeling the concoctions, all manually.
"We finally did get a capper," she recalls.
Robert Goodman said that current owner Mike Kimrey called on him as a chemical salesperson for ten years, trying to make a sale. Goodman only bought from him one time, as he recalls — but Kimrey's persistence made an impression.
"We felt like Mike would succeed at it," he said.
And succeed the Kimreys have, with stores now in 27 states
By far the biggest part of the baking season is the last four months of the year, according to Michelle, and this makes sense — so many people do holiday baking and candy-making, and hot weather shuts down some people’s kitchens almost entirely.
In preparation for that period, the Goodman’s production line is in full swing now. "We're just producing as fast as we can," Michelle said.
She noted that when people see Goodman’s racks, those have been put in by hand, probably by Kurt Weaver, the company’s sales rep (and one of only five company employees).
Lt. Gov. Kehoe objected to the use of the word “only.” “Never say ‘only’ when talking about the number of employees,” he said. “Employing five people is fantastic. Small business makes up 80% of our economy. Small business is Missouri’s bread and butter.”
Missouri Rep. John Black, District 137, was present for the event, along with other officials, and he pointed out that the Kimreys are so much more than business owners.
"Mike and Michelle are examples of small-town people who invest not only in their business but their community," he said. He noted that both are active in their church, and Michelle runs the preschool there.
Kehoe acknowledged that this sort of community involvement has been visible to him throughout his state tour.
He added that the Buy Missouri Program, which was started by Gov. Mike Person during his time as lieutenant governor, is growing steadily, and it now includes 250 businesses.
"Anything we can do to promote products made here in Missouri, we’re going to do it," he said.