Where Caledon came from ... and how did it get here?
When I was a child, Arthur Brock, my "favorite uncle", operated a general store that his grandfather had founded. He enjoyed a high degree of independence in his job and I liked that. It made me want to start my own business.
In the early 1970s I was closing in on 30, and impatient to do something on my own. I had a degree in chemistry and a few years experience selling gas chromatography equipment.
The commercial development of gas chromatography in the early '60s was revolutionizing analytical chemistry, and at the same time, the publication of Rachel Carson's seminal book, "Silent Spring" had made society realize that nature was vulnerable to human intervention. She was talking about the indiscriminant use of DDT but the question soon became "what contaminants are in the natural environment and food - and what harm are they doing to us?"
To get at that question, GC had become the analytical technique of choice, and it turned out that trace levels of contaminants were everywhere - including in the organic solvents that were available from laboratory supply houses at the time. This led to analysts distilling 4, 8, and even 20 litre batches of flammable solvents in glass vessels with electric heating mantles on their lab bench, to try to get the pure solvents they needed to avoid masking the contaminants of interest. I thought that was pretty inefficient and hazardous too. But I had my opportunity.
There's an old story about Caledon having been started in a garden shed. That is only partly true. Mary Lou and I lived in a wooden house that was one hundred years old and we had two small children. I wasn't about to take the risk* of distilling anything in the cellar, so the garden shed was used for a series of small scale batches to see if I could get the required purity. The first real production occurred in the fall of 1972 in a 1,500 square foot building on rented land. By 1975 we had acquired industrial land in Georgetown and moved to a 4,500 square foot plant that was custom designed for the purification and packaging of organic solvents.
So that's where we came from. How we got there is a story of taking one step at a time. As we refined our methods we added more solvents, and then chemicals, and then acids and solutions, and the plant was expanded again to the 24,000 square feet that we now occupy. But more important than those size and product additions are the people who took the steps to make the expansions happen.
I have always believed that if you treat people well, they will treat you well in return. It is a simple truth that, in business, applies to customers, suppliers and employees. Early on, Caledon adopted and clearly communicated some core policies, a central one being to treat people with dignity and trust. Then, by their actions, the company and its managers did their utmost to give those policies substance. For more on this click on Management Philosophy.
Caledon employees have responded in spades. The whole group - Sales and Customer Service, Marketing, Purchasing, Production, Accounting and Distribution - operates as a coordinated team in which individuals contribute that "discretionary effort" that we all have within ourselves, and can make available when we are motivated to do so. That is how we got here.
And what of my favorite Uncle Arthur? He lived a long and productive life, and the store is now run by two of his grandchildren - the fifth generation of Brocks to do so. It is a fixture on the main street of Port Perry, Ontario, and is about to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
Now maybe Caledon ...
Founder and President
* There is always an element of risk when handling hazardous chemicals. We have never had a significant accident.