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John Boos & Co. is the oldest industry in Effingham, Illinois. It has been in business continuously since 1887. Conrad Boos Sr. founded the business in 1887 and named it for his son, John. For many years he worked out of the blacksmith shop, which was located at what is now 406 West Jefferson Street in Effingham, Illinois. The wood for his blocks was cut in wooded areas surrounding Effingham and was mostly sycamore lumber. The lumber was processed in his sawmill and sent to his shop for finishing. The plant operated from a blacksmith shop until 1892 and then it moved across town, and began producing the blocks as we know them now.
The blacksmith used a sycamore tree placed on three legs to straighten horseshoes. The wooden block absorbed the shock of the smith's hammer. When the butcher saw the block where the anvil was resting, he realized he could use one in his meat market. So John Boos made him one and the rest is history. In the early days the butcher blocks were built for commercial meat markets. At the turn of the century meat purchased at the local market was not refrigerated or frozen, but hung.
The company currently occupies approximately 150,000 sq.ft. of total production capacity in Effingham, IL and approximately 65,000 sq.ft. of manufacturing capacity in Philipsburg, PA and Suring, WI, which produce wooden school furniture. The company has four dry kilns that will dry up to 210,000 board feet of lumber on a continual basis. There are 140 employees in the Effingham facility. Most of the hardwoods used for manufacturing is shipped from Great Lakes states via truck, while their second largest commodity, stainless steel, comes from steel warehouses and distribution centers in Chicago, Indianapolis, and St.Louis. The company currently is cutting up about five million feet of maple and oak each year.
Current Products & Markets
The wood and metal products are listed with the National Sanitation Foundation, the leader in sanitation agencies for approving equipment to be installed in foodservice and supermarket operations. The products must have approval of various sanitation agencies in order to be accepted by the industry. The stainless steel product group, which continues to expand, now includes stainless steel sinks, shelves, carts, etc. One of the outgrowths of their stainless steel plant and our wood plant is the new Cucina series of foodservice carts made from northern hard rock maple and foodservice grade stainless steel. The product has received instant acceptance from professional, as well as domestic chefs throughout North America. Sales are made through major gourmet catalog companies, as well as foodservice equipment dealers. Mixing the two materials provides John Boos & Co. with a competitive edge as the manufacturing begins and ends in Effingham, IL.