Mentor, Ohio-based Mill-Rose Co. is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year as the world’s largest manufacturer of twisted-wire brushes. Started in 1919 by Victor H. Miller, Mill-Rose today, under fourth-generation family leadership, has manufacturing and warehouse facilities throughout the United States and Mexico, with production facilities in Mentor and Mexico that reflect the company’s commitment to investing in technology and automation. It’s Clean-Fit Products (with its ultra-popular Blue Monster brand) hits the plumbing, heating and cooling industry with its complete selection of brushes, abrasives, PTFE sealants and specialty tools. BNP Media Group Editorial Director Mike Miazga recently visited Mill-Rose in Mentor and chatted with President Greg Miller about the century milestone, the company’s continued growth and the popularity of the Blue Monster line.
To lead off the interview, Miller asked a question about brushes. How many brushes are in the average household? Answers in Miller’s office from three individuals were eight, six and five.
GM: 37. Brushes are in every process whether you are making glass or cleaning a carpet. There’s no automotive part or piece of steel that’s being manufactured without it being deburred and polished. It goes back to when I was young and my dad was dragging my butt to work on the weekends. Why brushes? There’s a big demand for them in every facet of manufacturing.
Why is Mill-Rose unique?
GM: That’s an easy one to answer. Innovation. We rest heavily on the fact we constantly are looking to innovate. If we are talking specifically about the PHC trades, we’ve developed multi-function brushes, high-performance PTFE thread sealants and special tools like compression seal tape that help contractors do their jobs more effectively. To market many of these products, we introduced branding and the Blue Monster, a unique trade character that calls a lot of attention to products that normally would sit on a shelf. We always are listening to what the customer wants and paying attention to the needs of the contractor.
Why has the Blue Monster brand resonated so well with contractor customers?
GM: We needed to come up with something different. We looked at what didn’t exist — something strong and impressive to help us promote a new line of thicker, heavy-duty thread seal tape. I sketched this creature that evolved into the Blue Monster trade character. The whole plan was to lead contractors into trusting the new tape product and Blue Monster brand, which then expanded to include other professional-grade products, including pipe sealing compounds, abrasives and specialty tools.
Branding is nothing new, but it has worked for us. It has provided us with more opportunity than you can imagine over the course of the development of that brand over the years. The benefit of this is that you have a trusted brand.
We only put the Blue Monster name on our high-end products, which have gained acceptance and recognition by the trades. It’s rewarding. I can be driving down the freeway and see Blue Monster window decals and bumper stickers on other vehicles, or go to a concert and see people wearing Blue Monster apparel.
How are you best connecting with contractors?
GM: We roll up our sleeves, get out there in the field and work with our contractor customers. We are calling on the contractors through the support of wholesale distribution and our network of sales representatives. We look to solve problems, and when you couple that with a trusted product, you tend to gain acceptance.
What does being a fourth-generation family-run business mean?
GM: It means a lot more as this year has progressed as many of my peers, friends and of course, family have helped us celebrate it. I recognize the importance of it, and I’m very grateful that my great-grandfather started messing around with wire and eventually developed a brush back in the day. Reaching 100 years is something that percentage-wise is few and far between. The most important thing for me is it’s the people who make it happen. You walk the floor and you see the people we have in the different facilities and all the work everyone puts in. Everyone has contributed, so this is big. We’re extremely proud of our 100-year history and excited to see what the next 100 years brings.