About Us - Kennicott Brothers Company
Our Mission, Core Values & Purpose
Our mission at Kennicott Brothers Company is to be the best supplier in every market we serve. We promote this ideology every day to our team. To that end, our core values spell out the word "team":
Treat every individual with respect
Each of us is responsible for our actions
Always be honest, and do the right thing
Make a difference
We know that our TEAM is our greatest strength, and together we strive to fulfill what we see is our purpose: to MAKE A DIFFERENCE not only for our customers and each other - but in our industry and communities as well.
We’re Employee Owned
In 2015 Kennicott Brothers Company celebrated it's 15th anniversary of becoming 100% employee-owned. In May 2000 our company embraced an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) as a way to ensure the company’s continuation. The existence of the ESOP adds a new facet to the company’s culture, namely the pride of ownership, while it discourages a possible buyout from a competitor or other business. The ESOP is another feature of the company’s retirement benefits that include a pension plan and optional 401(k) plan.
Since the inception of the ESOP, Kennicott Brothers Company has continued to grow and prosper. We've built a solid reputation by providing a high level of customer support and service, along with superior products. The establishment of the ESOP lets employees expand upon that by allowing them to take true ownership of their positions. Our CEO, Red Kennicott says it best: "When customers call, they speak with an owner. The employees' jobs are part of an investment in their future, and that's reflected in their communications with customers, suppliers, and each other."
Recognized by The Illinois State Historical Society as one of the oldest continuous businesses in Illinois, Kennicott Brothers Company boasts a long and successful history. Our story begins in 1836, when the area's first physician and horticulturist, Dr. John A. Kennicott, founded The Grove Nursery by taking out a federal land grant on the Milwaukee Stage Road in Northfield Township. Soon The Grove was regularly advertising rose bushes and other floral products in the Chicago Tribune. Dr. Kennicott was instrumental in the establishment of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and promoted the Morrill Act, which established Land Grant Colleges. Also his home, The Grove is a now National Historic Landmark and nature preserve owned and maintained by the Glenview Park District.
In 1881, Kennicott Brothers Company was founded by Dr. Kennicott's sons, Flint and Amasa. It rapidly grew to serve florists in the Chicago area and eventually large portions of the Midwest and South. Chicago’s location as the rail-hub of America enabled it to become the center of flower production and shipping by the end of the nineteenth century. At one time there were more than 30 wholesalers in the Chicago market, with growers numbering in the hundreds. With the advent of air transportation in the mid 1900’s, most flower production moved to California and later to South America. Kennicott’s focus became serving local retail florists.
Harrison Kennicott Jr., who joined the company in 1929, was the guiding force in the company's growth, especially in the booming years following World War II. Harrison "Red" Kennicott III officially joined the company full time in 1959, but had worked at the wholesale house since he was 12. In 1963, Kennicott Brothers Company opened its first branch store in Waukegan, Illinois, to better serve florists in that area after the North Shore Railroad went out of business. In succeeding years, locations were added in Aurora and Elk Grove (Illinois), and Milwaukee (Wisconsin). During the 1970’s, Kennicott briefly expanded horizontally by becoming Illinois’ largest rose grower and opening a major bouquet department to service local supermarkets.
In 2012, Kennicott Brothers Company acquired the major assets of Vans Floral Products, adding locations in Alsip (Illinois), South Bend and Indianapolis (Indiana), Grand Rapids (Michigan), Minneapolis (Minnesota) and Atlanta (Georgia). In 2014, Kennicott acquired the major assets of Nordlie Inc., adding locations in Detroit, Flint, and Grandville, Michigan; Cleveland and Dayton, Ohio; and Tampa, Florida. In 2015, Kennicott also acquired the operating assets of Import Connection, a Michigan-based company. As of 2016, Kennicott acquired the operating assets of Saginaw Valley Flower Exchange in Saginaw, MI.
Three Kennicott Brothers executives have been recipients of the Leland T. Kintzele Award, which is presented by WF & FSA, the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier of America association as its highest honor. It is given to individuals who have made a significant, long-term contribution to the floral industry:
Harrison Kennicott, Jr 1982
Harrison “Red” Kennicott 2002
Gary Doran 2014
Red has also been honored with presentation of the "Award of Merit" from AIFD (American Institute of Floral Designers) and the Paul Ecke Award by SAF (Society of American Florists). Red also served as Chairman of the American Floral Endowment. In 2011, Red Kennicott received the highest honor in the floral industry when he was inducted to the Society of American Florists (SAF) Floriculture Hall of Fame, again following his father who received this award in 1980. SAF wrote, "For more than 50 years, Kennicott, the CEO of Kennicott Brothers in Chicago, has been a champion of diplomacy, an advocate for cooperation and a master of perseverance in the floral industry."
Tom Figueroa (Nordlie)
Gary Doran (Kennicott Brothers)
Jack Van Namen (Vans Floral)
Red Kennicott (Kennicott Brothers)
Jake Van Namen (Vans Floral)
Jim Nordlie (Nordlie, Inc.)
Harrison Kennicott Jr (WCFA, predecessor of WF & FSA)
...and the Kennicott tradition of service and participation in industry activities continues:
Willie Viera (Supply) has served on the Board of Directors of AAI, the importing cooperative to which we belong.
Lenny Walker (KBC Direct) serves on the Board of Directors of WF & FSA.
Gustavo Gilchrist (current President) serves on the SAF Board of Directors.