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Encyclopedia Dubuque

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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.




JELD-WEN

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Jeld-Wen Fiber of Iowa at 250 E. 8th St. in 2010

JELD-WEN. Richard WENDT moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon in 1957, when CARADCO where his father worked, dispatched him to turn around a struggling mill. Wendt made the mill profitable, but Caradco managers decided to sell it. Wendt and four other employees bought the plant at auction in 1960, forming the company that became JELD-WEN. The name combines the first names of his sister, Jewel; his mother, Evelyn; his father, Lester, and his own nickname, Dick; with Wen abbreviating their surname.

JELD-WEN revolutionized production of wood-framed windows, which had largely been made in the Midwest out of Ponderosa pine logs shipped from the West. Instead, the company made door parts in the West, near timber supplies, and sent them to window factories near Eastern markets -- shipping 35 percent less wood. The difference was made into wood fiber, applying resin and hot-pressing it -- to make door skins. The molded-skin product, also made by Masonite, became the nation's most popular interior door.

JELD-WEN expanded by building plants and then by acquiring numerous companies, including Pozzi, Norco and Caradco, the company that Wendt's father ultimately headed. Consistent with Wendt's understated character, subsidiaries retained their names -- until managers realized they were advertising 27 brands.

In 1978, JELD-WEN purchased the door manufacturing operation in Dubuque from CARADCO. During its first year of operation, the company produced 350,000 doors. In 1983 plans were announced to produce exterior as well as interior colonial-styled models. On a daily average, the company was then producing 2,200 wood fiber doors. The company sold these to middlemen who resold them to wholesalers. The hollow doors were made of pine and fir scraps ground under steam and pressure, mixed with resin, and pressed into a variety of door panels. The panels were fastened together with wooded strips and glued. Before shipment, the assembled doors were spray-painted with primer.

The 1985 Dubuque City Directory listed Jeld-Wen Fiber Products of Iowa at 250 E. 8th Av.

The 1989 Dubuque City Directory listed Jeld-Wen Inc. Research and Development at 300 E. 9th.

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Source: See: Richard WENDT