In 1920, Hank Smith opened the doors of H. V. Smith & Co. for business; an exterminating company and a chemical compounder of soaps, waxes, disinfectants, insecticides and rodenticides. Hank owned and operated H. V. Smith & Co. until 1955.

Robert Laughlin purchased the company from Hank in 1955. Robert owned and operated the H.V. Smith Company until he sold the chemical compounding side of the company to his son Timothy Laughlin in 1970. (Robert’s son Michael bought the exterminating side of the business a few years later.) Shortly thereafter, Tim changed the name of the company to Sunburst Chemicals, Inc.. Tim owned and operated Sunburst Chemicals for 34 years before selling it in 2004 to the third generation of Laughlins, his three sons: Pat, Rob and Tim Jr.

In 1970, Sunburst Chemicals was a small locally-operated business in the Twin Cities that sold only a few floor cleaning products, degreasers, and janitorial supplies out of their St. Paul offices. In the early 70’s, Tim Sr. was approached by a friend with an idea: to implement a liquid laundry system utilizing peristaltic pumps and timer boards. This was a revolutionary idea at the time, as most institutional laundries were using powdered products and hand feeding chemicals into washing machines. Tim Sr. saw the opportunity and jumped on it. Before long, Sunburst Chemicals was rapidly growing from new business for on-premise laundries using liquid laundry products. Tim Sr. even got a patent on a liquid injection laundry dispenser in the mid 70’s.

As Sunburst Chemicals grew in the laundry market, Tim Sr. discovered opportunities in the food service industry — specifically in kitchens. Where Sunburst Chemicals was already present in laundries, there were often kitchens that needed a sanitation program. By the early 80’s, Tim Sr. had expanded the business into the food service sanitation market, and from there Sunburst Chemicals only continued to flourish. What developed from the food service business as the concept of Solid Detergents. Sunburst Chemicals was, and continues to be, on the forefront of Solid detergent Technology. Sunburst’s first solid product was a dish machine detergent called Performance. Performance dish machine detergent eliminated the messy and unsafe handling that powdered products created.

Tim Sr. and some of the Sunburst team saw the immediate benefits of solid products, including increased safety and reduced space requirements for storage and shipping. The Sunburst team developed a real vision and a passion around developing products for all kinds of applications, focusing on solid products whenever possible.

The late 80’s and early 90’s was a period of substantial product development around the new Solids concept, including the development of a new line of dispensers to dispense these new solid products. (Solid dispensers were not readily available in the marketplace at the time.) Tim Sr. and his team recognized they were tapping into a ground-breaking market with their unique products and dispensers and filed for numerous patents. Today, Sunburst Chemicals holds approximately 25 patents around solid technology, both in chemistry and in dispensing.

In the early 1990’s Tim Sr. started introducing the chemical sanitation business to his three sons, Pat, Rob and Tim Jr. and by the late 90’s there was a re-engineering of the company. It began to establish itself as a national manufacturer selling to distributors. As a part of this transition Sunburst began to establish relationships with multi-unit accounts spanning several States. In 2000 Sunburst began to establish a new network of distributors capable of providing distribution and technical service support to chain business. This has evolved into a National network of Select Service Providers, (SSP’s).

Sunburst continues to invest in R&D around Solid chemicals and dispensing with ongoing refinements and expansion in the solid product offering. Key to this development is dispensing technology as Sunburst continues to develop new, patented designs of its Solid dispensers. In 2013 Sunburst introduced the third generation of Solid dispensers and continues to leverage the benefits that Solids bring to the market.

The Company also continues to drive new technologies in liquid chemistry, most recently impacting its success in large laundries. The most recent patented product (2014) allows customers to dramatically reduce operational costs for water and utilities. It also helps customers to produce “Hygienically Clean” linen. Sunburst also continues to implement new dispensing technologies for Large Laundry.

At Sunburst Chemicals our ongoing growth is fueled by the passion shared by the three Laughlin brothers to help their customers succeed, and by being the best at what we do. Sunburst Chemicals is committed to integrity and trust, innovation and execution, and recognizing and rewarding success.


Careers at Sunburst Chemicals


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