The Century Club 2016

From linen services to packaging and construction companies, and from selling furs to machine bearings, DBusiness pays tribute to companies that are 100 years old or more.


Published:

(page 4 of 5)

Glass bottles the company manufactures for Motorcity gas, a micro-distillary in Royal Oak

MJS Packaging

GOT TO KEEP GOING

It was the 1950s and two Grand Rapids entrepreneurs needed bottles to hold the contents of their first product, a liquid organic cleanser. Short on cash, the pair asked for and acquired a $50,000 line of credit from packaging distributor M. Jacob & Sons.

More than half a century later, the enterprise the two men, Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel, started became known as Amway. Today, the two companies are still working together. “They’re one of our largest customers,” says David Lubin, president of the Livonia company, now known as MJS Packaging.

Max Jacob, a Lithuanian immigrant, founded the company in 1885 in Detroit. In the 1980s, the company transferred about 30 administrative employees to Farmington Hills, and moved its entire Detroit-area operations to Livonia in 2010.

Every year, the nearly 10 employees at its 160,000-square-foot distribution center ship 2 billion to 3 billion units of glass and plastic containers, caps/closures, sprayers, pumps, flexible packaging, and packaging components nationwide. Most go to firms east of the Mississippi, Lubin says.

The company, which claims to be the longest-running packaging distributor in the country, currently has nearly 70 employees in nine locations, including a division known as Sprayco, a direct-to-retail producer of plastic spray bottles and other consumer goods that got its start in 1983. The division represents about 20 percent of MJS’ business.

Max jacob, shown at age 33.

The Jacob family retains 85 percent ownership of the overall enterprise and holds five of seven board seats; Max’s great-granddaughter, Deborah Jacob, serves as chairman.

Lubin say the firm’s name change to MJS came about in 2014, as the company expanded its reach into the Southeast and the New York area, as part of its plan to increase its geographic footprint via acquisition. 

Expansion efforts continue. In 2015, MJS hired a fifth-generation member of the Jacob family, Matthew McDonnell, to direct business development.

“You’ve got to keep growing,” says Lubin, the first non-family member to lead the company. “If you’re not taking three steps forward, you’re moving back.”

Lubin has been at MJS for more than 20 years, first as CFO then COO, before being appointed president in 2014, succeeding Marty Jacob, the founder’s grandson. “(Marty) put the family business above any individual gain,” Lubin says. “He hired great people, gave them the resources to do their jobs, and treated them well.”

Lubin says the company’s conservative fiscal practices — which trace back to Max’s money-savvy son, Ben — and the loyalty of its employees, some of whom have been with the company for two or three decades, have helped it weather downturns and survive 131 years. 

“The key, I think, was the third generation — Marty and Elaine Jacob, his cousin,” Lubin says, explaining why MJS remains a family-owned business. 

Elaine Jacob hired into the company in the early 1950s, at a time when women were sparsely represented in industry leadership. She proved to be more than capable when she was charged with launching a plastics division, which contributed critically to its growth. She passed away in 2014.

“She’s the one who created the Wayne State connection, too,” Lubin adds, referring to the support Elaine contributed to establish the Elaine L. Jacob modern art gallery on West Hancock. The university also owns the Max Jacob House on West Kirby, a Mediterranean-style villa Max Jacob built in 1915 and lived in until 1924, according to WSU records. 

Business development director McDonnell recently had dinner at his great-great-grandfather’s former home with WSU President M. Roy Wilson, Lubin, and former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and his wife, the Hon. Trudy DunCombe Archer.

“It was definitely a special night,” McDonnell says. “I remember thinking while we were eating that all my relatives had been there.”

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

30 in Their Thirties 2018

The 2018 class of 30 in Their Thirties spans the business world, including employee staffing, finance, food production, health care, insurance, real estate development, and technology.

Roll 'Em

The film industry in metro Detroit, which is very much alive despite the end of sizeable state incentives that were designed to attract top-flight actors and directors, can draw big-budget production companies like Disney and Warner Bros. by building up a creative infrastructure.

Q&A: Chris Thomas

Chris Thomas is a co-founder of Fontinalis Partners, a venture capital firm in downtown Detroit focused exclusively on investing in technology companies that improve next-generation mobility.

Line of Flight

A longer runway at Cherry Capital Airport in Traverse City, new golf courses and wineries, upgraded resorts, and revamped marketing campaigns are attracting more tourism in northern Michigan.

Integrating Circuits

Not since Detroit absorbed California hot-rod culture have the Motor City and the Golden State embraced each other so tight. The quest to perfect self-driving cars and find innovative mobility solutions made it happen. Is this the biggest story in American business?
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. William Davidson Foundation Makes $1.7 Million Donation to the Belle Isle Aquarium
    The Belle Isle Conservancy today announced that the William Davidson Foundation in Troy has...
  2. Restoration of Old Wayne County Building in Downtown Detroit Gets $7M Makeover
    The ownership group of The Old Wayne County Building, located at 600 Randolph Street in downtown...
  3. $136M Mixed-use Development Slated for Detroit’s East Riverfront District
    City Growth Partners in Detroit today announced it would construct a $136-million mixed-use...
  4. Ford Brings 600 Employees to Wagner Place in Downtown West Dearborn, Announces Commercial Tenants
    Ford Motor Co. today announced it has started moving 600 employees into Wagner Place along...
  5. Retail Tenants Announced For Bedrock’s Shinola Hotel in Downtown Detroit
    Bedrock has announced four retail tenants that are coming to the 1400 Woodward block in Detroit,...
  6. Delta Offers Two Detroit Metro Flights With New A220-100 Aircraft, Service Launches in 2019
    Delta Air Lines Inc. today announced it will begin offering domestic business routes on the new...