Made in Milwaukee: Lamplight TIKI
Made in Milwaukee is new series about the businesses that sell to the world but call Milwaukee home. Presented by House of Harley-Davidson, Milwaukee's locally-owned Harley dealer, we're shining a spotlight on these iconic companies – their histories and their futures.
Year founded: 1964
CEO: James G. Hillenbrand
Number of employees: 70 full-time; 100 seasonal
Location: W140 N4900 Lilly Rd., Menomonee Falls
TIKI torches, the outdoor oil lamps synonymous with beach parties and backyard barbecues, aren't made in Maui or Malibu.
Nope, the company is based in Menomonee Falls, a city slightly less frequently associated with Polynesian partyware.
The TIKI Brand is owned by Lamplight Farms, a subsidiary of W.C. Bradley Co. Founded in 1964, Lamplight Farms was originally a company that produced smokeless indoor lamp oil – and Lamplight Farms still does – but since 1988, it has also produced outdoor torch oil and accessories. Lamplight Farms acquired the TIKI Corp. in 2001, which allowed the company to diversify their products and offer a variety of other torches, oils and backyard enhancements.
But don't feel too badly if you did a double take when you found out your TIKI torches are coming from the Falls.
"That's a pretty common reaction," says Jennifer Grosshandler, Lamplight–TIKI Brand marketing director. "Tiki has a Hawaiian/Polynesian vibe, so it can be surprising to some that it's sitting right here in Milwaukee."
Last year, Lamplight introduced a "clean burn" table top decorative vessel that works with clean burn torch fuel that is 85 percent plant based.
"You get dramatically less smoke with our Clean Burn Torch Fuel," says Grosshandler. "This is great for outdoor dinner parties because people love fire, but they don't enjoy 'dancing' around the table to avoid smoke or soot."
While the bamboo, glass, ceramic, metal and other torches are produced in China, the TIKI fuel is blended and shipped right from the Menomonee Falls factory. It's a sight to behold, actually, with gigantic drums of oil, blended with citronella, dyes and fragrances, bottled on site and then shipped on pallets from the warehouse.
Lamplight employs about 70 full-time employees globally, but during peak season in the summer, it will bring in another 100 temps.
Just like any other petroleum product, the price of TIKI oil is dictated by the market, but Jennifer says that sales actually improve when fuel prices go up because that's when people stay at home to entertain.
"As for the indoor oil lamps, sales peak during hurricane season," says Grosshandler.
Considering Lamplight's products might be considered low-tech by some – they are just oils and torches, after all – Grosshandler says that the company's future actually is quite bright.
"There's a steady demand for outdoor fire," says Grosshandler. "As long as there are backyards, we want to provide families, friends and neighbors a chance to gather. We believe fire provides that opportunity."
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