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Lakeshore pet food company will sell to New York firm

HOLLAND TWP. — A multi-generation pet supply business with a long local history will sell to a New York private equity firm, according to reporting from Crain's Grand Rapids.

John A. Van Den Bosch Co. has lengthy roots in Holland and Zeeland, according to historian Steve VanderVeen. John was born in 1892 in Zeeland. He was the great-grandson of Tamme and Grietje Bont Van Den Bosch, who emigrated from the Province of Drenthe in the Netherlands in the spring of 1848.

More: Steve VanderVeen: The history of John A. Van Den Bosch Co.

Like many people, after the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed, John and his firstborn, William, lost their jobs. With nothing left to do, they started their own business. They pooled their money to buy a used truck to deliver vegetables from farms to food processors; then they started mixing and selling feed.

A multi-generation pet supply business with a long local history will sell to a New York private equity firm.
A multi-generation pet supply business with a long local history will sell to a New York private equity firm.

In 1935, the John A. Van Den Bosch Company bought a “mixer” and a small grain elevator and expanded its truck route. It survived because the Depression forced even city dwellers to have 10-15 chickens in their yard, and all those chickens needed feed.

After a fire destroyed their feed mill at 509 E. Washington St. in 1943, and the government’s rationing of materials during World War II made it difficult for them to get parts, the Van Den Bosches began making ration boxes for the military. That business evolved into Zeeland Lumber.

Fortuitously, early in the 1950s, William, on a whim, decided to mix birdseed, which became a big seller and encouraged the Van Den Bosches to explore new markets. Eventually, they began producing pet food and distributing pet care products.

In 1998, William, then 86, had the foresight to recruit his daughter Jan, an experienced banker; nephew David, an experienced manager; and Steve, son-in-law of his brother Fred and an experienced buyer. They joined the company's board.

William convinced David to give up his management position at General Motors and take over day-to-day operations. After losing another feed mill to fire in 2002, the family reconsidered their product line. They invested in a warehouse on the north side of Holland and expanded their customer base to include large retail chains.

While they still sold feed, they also carried their own brands of bird seed (Jolly, M.T. Feeder and Nature’s Window), dog food (Canine Complete), cat food (Feline Complete), and deer products (Magnum Buck).

By 2009, the John A Van Den Bosch Company offered a full range of pet accessories, including beds, carriers, crates, food, grooming supplies, medicines, nutritional supplements, and toys, as well as bird feeders and accessories, wild bird feed, deer products, and lawn and garden supplies.

Today, the John A. Van Den Bosch Company carries over 150 brands and serves retail stores in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky. And until now, it remained independently owned.

The purchase is a partnership between Rubelmann Capital and David Blatte, the former CEO and chairman of pet products companies Quaker Pet Group and Worldwise Inc. — according to Crain's.

“We expect this industry to continue to benefit from the continued growth of pet ownership and increased demand for quality pet products and we look forward to partnering and helping our customers take full advantage of the exciting trends in their product categories,” Blatte wrote in a statement.

CEO Joel DeBruin will remain leader of the company.

— Historian Steve VanderVeen contributed to this article. Cassandra Lybrink is the local editor of The Holland Sentinel. Contact her at clybrink@hollandsentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @CassLybrink.

This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Lakeshore pet food company will sell to New York firm

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