Thursday, January 13, 2011


If you like Oriental food, think of old Ohio, where it started. In 1920, bean sprouts were grown in a bathtub by two Michigan fellows who had a vision.

Wally Smith wanted to learn to grow bean sprouts, and asked his Korean born friend, Ilhan New, how to do it. They started a sprout garden in Smith's bathtub. They started canning bean sprouts in glass jars. They came from the University of Michigan, started their business in Detroit, but during World War I moved their business to Archbold, Ohio in 1942. Why? Location.

Northwest Ohio has lots of chickens and cows. Nearby Michigan grows lots of celery. Pennsylvania grows big mushrooms. Archbold is also near a lake port and railroad transportation. The soil was great in Archbold for growing tomatoes.

Together they formed La Choy Food Products, Inc., which was later sold to Beatrice Food Company, but retains its name and a 40% share of the market of various Oriental foods. Mr. New left the company in 1930 and Mr. Smith was struck and killed by lightning in 1937, but the company survived and flourished. They added many more Oriental foods and a cookbook to their products while the company was growing.

The company expanded their warehouse over time, produced more products, kept up with modern technology, now doing frozen foods, and has over 350 employees in Archbold. It all started with growing bean sprouts in a bathtub, like an American dream.

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