Written by Cokato Museum Staff
Cokato businesses tend to have long histories. Johnson Produce is one that was here for almost half a century. Questions that some people may have are, "How did this business come about?", "Why was it so successful?" and "What was the business like?". Well, look no further than this blog as we will try to answer most of your questions here.
What was their business like?
The Johnson Produce business was focused on poultry and egg sales. As you can see in the photo below which shows the workers working on cleaning the eggs.
Lee states, "that on average 50 people would have been employed during their peak years and during the weeks leading up to certain holidays there would have be around 100 workers."
Johnson Produce Memory
Armistice day storm will be remembered, Cokato's First Century, Carlton Lee, 1979.
"Monday, Nov. 11, 1940, dawned gray and raw in Cokato. A light blanket of snow coated the ground.... Monday was Armistice Day, an observance of the end of hostilities in the World War.... As dusk neared, visibility dropped to a few yards, and huge drifts were piling up. Night came on, and the temerature dropped to near zero.... By Tuesday morning 14 inches of snow on the level had fallen in Cokato, and there were drifts of solid, wind-packed snow, 10 feet high in town.... Truck drivers for Johnson Produce Co. were stranded in various towns, three in Kingston...."
Why were they successful for so many years?
Johnson produce was able to be successful by making sure to stay with the times.
1913 - New building.
This meant up to date structure and offices as well as a cooling plant that would be put in the basement.
1924 - New refridgerator building.
According to N.F. Johnson in the May 15, 1924 Cokato Enterprise, "Business does not warrant such an expenditare at this time, but we found this improvement necessary to properly handle our produce with satisfaction from a business standpoint."
1935 - Feather picking process.
With this improvement 24 people could work the system and be able to pick 400 birds per hour.
1942 - Addition added on to building.
This addition made it so that Johnson Produce no longer needed to rent out space from other people in Cokato.
1947 - Bought Mattson's Hatchery.
August 1955 - Johnson Produce Closed.
"Poultry production plants and egg production facilieties were established, and direct marketing was introduced on a large scale. After a time of declining volume, Johnson Produce Co. closed its plant in Cokato in August, 1955." Cokato's First Century, Carlton Lee.
After Johnson Produce closed down in 1955, the building continued to be untilized in Cokato. Numerous businesses have used this building and today it is currently being used by Forward Technology.