Watkins Incorporated

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J. R. Watkins Medical Company Complex
J.R. Watkins Headquarters 02.jpg
The J. R. Watkins Headquarters from the southwest
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Location150 Liberty Street, Winona, Minnesota
Coordinates 44°2′58″N91°37′41″W / 44.04944°N 91.62806°W / 44.04944; -91.62806 Coordinates: 44°2′58″N91°37′41″W / 44.04944°N 91.62806°W / 44.04944; -91.62806
Area2.5 acres (1.0 ha)
Architect George W. Maher
Architectural style Prairie School (1911 Administration Building)
NRHP reference # 84003940 [1]
Added to NRHPDecember 4, 2004
The "finest private administration building in the world" printed on postcard mailed in 1915 1915postcardWatkinsAdminBldgWinonaMN.jpg
The "finest private administration building in the world" printed on postcard mailed in 1915
Watkins Complex seen from the south WatkinsWinonaMN.jpg
Watkins Complex seen from the south
Watkins Pepper - J.R. Watkins, Winona, Minnesota WatkinsPepperTinFront.jpg
Watkins Pepper – J.R. Watkins, Winona, Minnesota

Watkins Incorporated is a manufacturer of health remedies, baking products, and other household items. The entire catalog includes 400 products. It is based in Winona, Minnesota, United States, which utilizes an omni-channel marketing strategy which includes a national retail sales force which focuses on selling to the retail channel as well as an independent sales force of 25,000 people to distribute its products. This independent sales force sells the products using various methods, including the Internet, person to person, trade shows, party planning, and fund-raising. In order to increase overall awareness for the brand, the company began offering products in national retail outlets such as Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Kroger and other mass, drug and grocery retail stores in 2005.

Health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in which disease and infirmity are absent.

Baking food cooking method using prolonged dry heat acting by convection

Baking is a method of preparing food that uses dry heat, normally in an oven, but can also be done in hot ashes, or on hot stones. The most common baked item is bread but many other types of foods are baked. Heat is gradually transferred "from the surface of cakes, cookies, and breads to their center. As heat travels through, it transforms batters and doughs into baked goods and more with a firm dry crust and a softer centre". Baking can be combined with grilling to produce a hybrid barbecue variant by using both methods simultaneously, or one after the other. Baking is related to barbecuing because the concept of the masonry oven is similar to that of a smoke pit.

Winona, Minnesota City in Minnesota, United States

Winona is a city in and the county seat of Winona County, in the state of Minnesota. Located in picturesque bluff country on the Mississippi River, its most noticeable physical landmark is Sugar Loaf. The city is named after legendary figure Winona, said to have been the first-born daughter of Chief Wapasha (Wabasha) III. The total population of the city was 27,592 at the time of the 2010 census.



The company was founded by J.R. Watkins in Plainview, Minnesota, who began selling liniment in 1868 door-to-door in the southeastern part of the state. A year after J.R. Watkins began selling liniment, he introduced the trial-mark bottle. Molded into the glass bottle, about one-third of the way down, [2] was a mark which showed how much of the product a customer could use and still get a refund. A label with the statement, “If not fully satisfied, your money cheerfully refunded,” also appeared on the bottle. The Watkins trial-mark is believed to be the first money-back guarantee [3] in America.

Joseph Ray Watkins

Joseph Ray Watkins was an American entrepreneur and founder of Watkins Incorporated with his homemade medical products – liniment, extracts, and salves. He offered the United States's first money back guarantee for his products and is credited as the founder of the direct sales industry.

Plainview, Minnesota City in Minnesota, United States

Plainview is a city in Wabasha County, Minnesota, United States. The population was 3,340 at the 2010 census. The author Jon Hassler was raised in Plainview and some of the places in his writing are based on the town.


Liniment, or embrocation, is a medicated topical preparation for application to the skin. Sometimes called balms or heat rubs, liniments are of a similar or greater viscosity than lotions and are rubbed in to create friction, unlike lotions, ointments or creams, but patches, sticks and sprays are also available.

The company moved to Winona in 1885 and added a number of products to its lineup. Baking materials including pepper and vanilla extract were added in 1895 along with cinnamon, ginger, cloves, peppermint extract and lemon extract. Between 1889 and 1914, Watkins constructed six manufacturing buildings behind the Winona Administration Building. J.R. Watkins died in 1911. In 1914, a prominent ten-story building completed the look of the Administration Building. Maher’s Administration Building included a 70-foot high rotunda dome coated in 24-carat gold leaf, a blue Bedford stone façade, 224 stain-glass skylights and three custom-made Tiffany stained glass windows.

Black pepper species of plant

Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, known as a peppercorn, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. When fresh and fully mature, it is about 5 mm (0.20 in) in diameter and dark red, and contains a single seed, like all drupes. Peppercorns and the ground pepper derived from them may be described simply as pepper, or more precisely as black pepper, green pepper, or white pepper.

Vanilla extract

Vanilla extract is a solution made by macerating and percolating vanilla pods in a solution of ethanol and water. It is considered an essential ingredient in many Western desserts, especially baked goods like cakes, cookies, brownies, and cupcakes, as well as custards, ice creams, and puddings. Although its primary flavor compound is vanillin, pure vanilla extract contains several hundred additional flavor compounds, which are responsible for its complex, deep flavor. By contrast, artificial vanilla flavor is solely made up of artificially-derived vanillin, which is frequently made from a by-product of the wood pulp industry. Because of the way that vanilla extract is made, there is no possible way for it to be colorless or clear. Therefore, any "clear vanilla" flavoring is artificial.

During World War II, Watkins devoted 90 percent of its production capacity to support the Allied war effort. To fill government contracts, Watkins produced dried eggs, powdered juice packets, vitamin tablets, hospital germicide, DDT and insecticide powder in support of the war effort

Durinfg the 1940s, Watkins was the largest direct-sales company in the world but soon began to decline. The demographics and buying habits of the United States had major shifts in the following decades, and the company did not keep pace. Watkins filed for bankruptcy protection in the 1970s, and was purchased by Minneapolis investor Irwin L. Jacobs in 1978.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

Irwin L. Jacobs was an American businessman. He was the CEO of several large corporations, formerly including the now-bankrupt Genmar Holdings, boat-building company. He earned the nickname "Irv the Liquidator" for his aggressive business practices in the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1973, Jacobs founded COMB, a catalog-based mail-order retailer. In 1986, COMB and several cable television operators created the Cable Value Network (CVN), a pioneering television shopping channel which was later purchased by Joseph Segel's QVC. Jacobs, based in Minneapolis, became wealthy by taking big stakes in Fortune 500 conglomerates, usually to unlock value by breaking them up.

In 1996, Jacobs' son, Mark Evan Jacobs, began to take over day-to-day operations of the company. He was 14 at the time his father purchased the company, and had worked as a Watkins salesman for many years. The younger Jacobs was an aspiring actor, appearing in minor roles in films like Biloxi Blues and Goodfellas , but he realized that his acting career wasn't advancing. Since taking over the reins, he has controlled spending, introducing an enhanced compensation plan for sales associates, along with an extensive brand study that led to the introduction of products onto store shelves for the first time.

Actor Person who acts in a dramatic or comic production and works in film, television, theatre, or radio

An actor is a person who portrays a character in a performance. The actor performs "in the flesh" in the traditional medium of the theatre or in modern media such as film, radio, and television. The analogous Greek term is ὑποκριτής (hupokritḗs), literally "one who answers". The actor's interpretation of their role—the art of acting—pertains to the role played, whether based on a real person or fictional character. Interpretation occurs even when the actor is "playing themselves", as in some forms of experimental performance art.

Biloxi Blues is a semi-autobiographical play by Neil Simon. It portrays the conflict of Sergeant Merwin J. Toomey and Arnold Epstein, one of many privates enlisted in the military stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi, seen through the eyes of Eugene Jerome, one of the other soldiers. This play is the second chapter in what is known as his Eugene trilogy, following Brighton Beach Memoirs and preceding Broadway Bound, and is the only one in which Eugene is not the central character. The play won the Tony Award for Best Play, and Barry Miller won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance as Arnold Epstein.

<i>Goodfellas</i> 1990 crime film directed by Martin Scorsese

Goodfellas is a 1990 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is an adaptation of the 1985 non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese. The film narrates the rise and fall of mob associate Henry Hill and his friends and family from 1955 to 1980.

Wal-Mart has carried Watkins products since 2003 other stores nationwide, including Cub Foods, Rite Aid, Walgreens, CVS, Giant, Stop & Shop, Wakefern, Hannaford, Whole Foods, Pick 'N Save, Schnucks, Hy-Vee, New Seasons Market food stores, Harris Teeter, Target, Menards, Home Depot and others are carrying select items, including spices and extracts as well as some personal care items, liquid hand soaps, home cleaning and the original remedies from the company's beginning. The reception from the retail community has been strong. A new all-natural line of personal care products were introduced to the retail community in the spring of 2008 and has quickly gained market share against Burt's Bees and others. A home cleaning line that is all-natural debuted at Target and rolled out nationally in the 2nd half of 2008 and is now sold throughout the country.

Cub Foods American no-frills supermarket chain based in Minnesota

Cub is a supermarket chain with 77 stores in Minnesota and Illinois. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of SuperValu Inc., based in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The store was famous for being "no frills; bag your own groceries...."

Rite Aid drugstore chain

Rite Aid Corporation is a drugstore chain in the United States. The company ranked No. 94 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue. It is headquartered in Camp Hill, East Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg. Rite Aid is the largest drugstore chain on the East Coast and the third largest in the U.S.

Walgreens second-largest pharmacy store chain in the United States

Walgreen Company or simply Walgreens is an American company that operates as the second-largest pharmacy store chain in the United States behind CVS Health. It specializes in filling prescriptions, health and wellness products, health information, and photo services. As of August 31, 2018, the company operated 9,560 stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It was founded in Chicago, Illinois, in 1901. The Walgreens headquarters office is in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield, Illinois.

The seven-building Watkins headquarters in Winona is on the National Register of Historic Places as the J.R. Watkins Medical Company Complex. It was listed in 2004 for having national significance in the themes of architecture, commerce, and industry. [4] It was nominated for being the longtime headquarters of the nation's largest direct sales company in the early 20th century, and for the Prairie School design of its 1911 Administration Building by architect George W. Maher. [5] The front entrance includes a window designed by stained-glass artist Louis J. Millet depicting Sugar Loaf, a local landmark.

In 2002, the story of a Watkins salesman, Bill Porter, was dramatized in the 2002 Emmy award-winning TNT movie Door to Door . Porter had a 50-year career with Watkins in Portland, Oregon, and he worked a route despite suffering from cerebral palsy. Porter was also featured in news stories.

In 2017, The Watkins Company sold the home care, personal care and over-the-counter remedies product lines to Swander Pace Capital. The newly formed sister company, J.R. Watkins Brands, focuses solely on home care, personal care and over-the-counter remedies.

in September 2018, Watkins set a Guinness World Record for “Greatest number of layers in a layer cake.” The cake that achieved the record was a Lady Baltimore cake totally 260 layers and broke the previous record by 30 layers. It stood 6 feet and 1 inch tall. [6] Ingredients [7] included 900 eggs, 480 pounds of sugar, 150 pounds of flour, 102 pounds of shortening, 45 pounds of butter, 32 pounds of oil, 45 pounds of milk, 30 pounds water, 2.5 pounds salt, and 7 pounds of Watkins All Natural Baking Vanilla Extract. Watkins commissioned [8] Wuollet Bakery in Minneapolis to bake the cake, and the record breaking event took place at the Watkins headquarters during the company's 150th anniversary celebration.

The Watkins Company adheres to the principles and practices put forth by the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI), including the requisite HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) program, maintaining a Level II certification. The company follows rigorous cleaning routines designed to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination.

Products & Product Categories

Watkins products are sourced worldwide and many are organic. Product categories include the following:

Most Watkins products are gluten-free and some are certified Kosher by the Upper Midwest Kashrut Association.

There are no artificial colors in Watkins food coloring products. They're made from 100% natural vegetable juices and spices that include beet juice, turmeric, spirulina extract and more. The color pack features red, yellow, blue and green.

Plastic bottles are BPA-free and are recyclable.

See also

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Watkins Manor House house in Winona, Minnesota, United States

The Watkins Manor House is a historic mansion in Winona, Minnesota, United States. It was built from 1924 to 1927 for Paul Watkins (1865–1931), second-generation leader of the J.R. Watkins Company and progenitor of its famous door-to-door sales strategy. It was designed in the Jacobethan style by architect Ralph Adams Cram. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 as the Paul Watkins House for having local significance in the themes of architecture and commerce. It was nominated for its associations with Paul Watkins and the Watkins Company, and for its architecture, being a rare and unaltered example of a house designed by an architect better known for his churches and institutional buildings.


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. Jr, Robert L. Williams; Williams, Helena A. (2017-03-23). Vintage Marketing Differentiation: The Origins of Marketing and Branding Strategies. Springer. ISBN   9781137387219.
  3. "21st Century Watkins Man". Twin Cities Business. Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  4. "Watkins, J. R., Medical Company Complex". Minnesota National Register Properties Database. Minnesota Historical Society. 2009. Retrieved 2015-06-23.
  5. Frame III, Robert M. (August 1984). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory—Nomination Form: J.R. Watkins Medical Company Complex". National Park Service. Retrieved 2015-06-29.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  6. Mitchell, Tesla. "A slice of history: Winona's Waktins Inc. celebrates 150th birthday with world-record, 260-layer cake". Winona Daily News. Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  7. "Greatest number of layers in a layer cake". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 2019-02-15.
  8. "World-record layer cake teeters but doesn't topple in Winona celebration". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2019-02-15.