Sanderson Plumbing headquarters plant, Columbus, MS.
Sanderson Plumbing headquarters plant, Columbus, MS.

COLUMBUS, MS – A maker of wood and plastic toilet seats, Sanderson Plumbing Products, may close after nearly 130 years. In voluntary bankruptcy since Oct. 25, 2013, the company has struggled to reorganize.

Using wood flour in a patented process to produce toilet seats, Sanderson and its 400 workers were spared closure in 2012 with support from the Mississippi Development Authority, the Momentum Mississippi incentives program and the Columbus, MS and Lowndes County Development Link program stepped in.

Now the Mississippi Development Authority is among creditors as small ads appear in the Wall St. Journal from Heritage Equity Patners briefly describing the business: a 360,000 square foot plant on 30 acres in Mississippi with an additional 25,000 square foot operation in Alabama, generating $20 million in sales, down from a peak of $60 million. The business, a supplier to Wal-Mart, currently employs 250.

The largest credit in the 2013 Chapter 11 filing was Test Rite, owed $1.075 million. Based in Norcross, GA, Test Rite specializes in Asian outsourcing and logistics services. Sheboygan Paint, Cedartown, GA was owed $322,000 and BNSF Logistics $225,000, according to court documents reviewed by Woodworking Network. Customs include Wal-Mart.

Sanderson Plumbing's main lenders are the Mississippi Development Authority, with a $1.5 million first lien on the company’s 360,000-square-foot building, and BizCapital BIDCO II LLC, with a $1.9 million first lien on the plant’s equipment, inventory, patents and other assets, according to an analysis of bankruptcy court documents by the Mississippi Business Journal. show. 

Established as the Findeisen-Kropf Manufacturing Company in Chicago, Sanderson has been manufacturing toilet seats since 1893. Henry Beneke Sr. purchased the company in 1939 and moved it to Columbus. While the company’s name has changed a number of times over the years, it has been in continuous production in Columbus since first establishing manufacturing operations there in the 1930s. Sister company Beneke Magnolia Inc. is a full line manufacturer of toilet seats, producing molded wood, injection molded solid plastic, aircraft, healthcare, manufactured home, OEM and soft vinyl toilet seats. The company was the exclusive supplier of toilet seats to NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.

According to broker, in 1954 Beneke, as the company was then named, developed a process for molding wood seats out of sawdust by combining the once discarded wood waste with resin under intense heat and pressure. The new product was trademarked as “Tuffy.” Today, manufacturers, including Sanderson, still produce the “woodflour”, plastic and vinyl seats, albeit with far more modern equipment than utilized 60 years ago.

Sanderson still sells the Tuffy brand into the plumbing wholesale market, under the Beneke logo and into the retail market under the Magnolia line.

The main woodflour line can produce 12,000 toilet seats in an 8 hour day. The woodflour product goes through several secondary finishing and assembly steps, including electrostatic finishing and drying. A second company-owned, woodflour production facility is located in Butler, AL in a 25,000 sq. ft., 10-year old building.

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