D.D. Bean & Sons Co. in Jaffrey is now the lone match manufacturer in North America

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

  • D.D. Bean and Sons Co. of Jaffrey is the last manufacturer of matches in the United States after they acquired Atlas Match of Texas in 2016. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/9/2019 5:09:47 PM

D.D. Bean & Sons Co. in Jaffrey is the lone match manufacturer left in the United States and Canada, a testament to the family-owned business’ resolve and efficiency over the past 80 years.

“It’s very much a source of pride that we were the ones that were able to survive,” said co-owner Mark Bean during a recent walk through of the manufacturing plant. “There were some scary moments along the way where we weren’t sure what our future was going to be.”

It wasn’t long ago that the Jaffrey plant may have closed its doors for good, Bean said. The company almost moved its operations to Texas after acquiring Atlas Match, one of the last remaining match manufacturers in the United States, in 2016.

After the company took on a contract to manufacture fire starters for Diamond –the company’s Minnesota-based manufacturing plant was closed after it was sold from Newell Brands Inc. to Royal Oak Enterprise in 2017 – it was decided to keep operations in the town where it all started.

“We were really pretty much decided that we were going to move this operation to Texas at the time we acquired Atlas,” Bean said. “It was in 2017 that we got the opportunity to do the fire starter contract [for Diamond] – that was the difference maker for us. We knew it would be challenging either way. … When we started doing the fire starters we realize we could do this.”

D.D. Bean has been manufacturing book matches at the same plant, a 19th century-built textile mill off Route 202 near Cheshire Pond, since 1938 when it was founded by Bean’s grandfather Delcie D. Bean, Sr. in the middle of the Great Depression with the help of a federal government loan.

The company expanded its footprint in the 1960s, constructing another building on the other side of Cheshire Road. The two buildings are connected by a tunnel that runs under Cheshire Road.

Plans to add a storage facility on premise are currently in the works, after much of the former storage space was lost due to moving the other companies’ equipment to Jaffrey. Currently, D.D. Bean is renting storage space on Fitzgerald Drive.

At the height of the industry in the mid-1970s, the company was operating four manufacturing plants – with locations in California, North Carolina, and Canada. Bean said that at that time, there were at least 12 to 15 different companies making matches at around 30 match factories throughout the United States and Canada.

“The main business D.D. Bean has always been in is making book matches for grocery stores and convenience stores,” Bean said. “We specialize in longer run, less expensive commodity grade matches at a very high volume.”

Bean said the match industry took a huge hit after the advent of the disposable lighter. Bean said half the market for matches had disappeared by 1985, with 90 percent of the market gone by 2000.

“It’s sort of like what CDs did to record albums, [the demand] was just gone,” Bean said. “The trend is down, but it has leveled off – it’s not declining like it used to so it’s still a good business for us.”

Currently, D.D. Bean manufactures about a million matchbooks a day – not counting books produced through the Atlas operation. All matches produced by D.D. Bean are paper safety matches, meaning the match needs to be struck on a striking surface found on the matchbook.

Bean said D.D. Bean’s matches are in many grocery stores and convenience stores throughout the nation, oftentimes wrapped in boxes that do not show off the D.D. Bean logo.

“If you go into a store, it’s highly likely that it’s a D.D. Bean match,” Bean said. “You wouldn’t know it was D.D. Bean. Usually it has the company its promoting [on the box].”

Acquiring Atlas match has allowed D.D. Bean to branch into a new segment of the match business – smaller batch, highly customizable matchbooks and other products like beer coasters.

“The Atlas product is promotional – it’s sold into restaurants and bars and hotels and casinos and all that,” Bean said. “It’s part of the advertising specialty industry, and there’s 1,000 types of products being sold to those kinds of customers. To have the ability to print the way we do and handle small orders – there’s all kinds of opportunities.”

Absorbing the operation has required a steep learning curve, but has yielded opportunities to expand.

Bean said all Atlas equipment – which is still being delivered to Jaffrey – is sheet fed instead of roll fed. After the crew learns how to use all the equipment, Bean said the company will work to automate some things.

“We’ve literally only been running some of this equipment for a couple of weeks now, we’re still going through the learning process,” Bean said.

Bringing in new equipment has allowed D.D. Bean to more than double jobs at the Jaffrey plant.

Prior to the acquisition, Jaffrey had 35 fulltime jobs and Atlas had 65 in Texas. After bringing all equipment up to Jaffrey, Bean said the company should have around 80 jobs in total.

“We’ve got this challenge, and a real excitement on bringing the new equipment in and getting it running and learning how to do it, then going beyond that to make efficiencies, improvements, and see what we can do with what we’ve got,” Bean said. “It’s been quite exciting.”

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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