The Story of Ed...


Being number 1 in a number 2 industry was not something that Ed took lightly. Investing heavily in equipment, research, development and marketing, Ed aimed to stay at the top. More patents and trademarks were filed during this time in addition to some other grand ideas that never made it commercially. Ed was never afraid to push the envelope and try things that were hard.

Sustaining growth

Lowe’s Inc. was the world’s largest manufacturer of cat-box-filler in the 1970s, and its Tidy Cat brand was the No. 1 bestseller in grocery stores. During this decade the company focused on vertical integration of its operations to sustain growth.

In 1973 Lowe’s sold its silica plant. The following year it acquired a processing facility in Oran, Mo., and began construction for a large plant in Bloomfield, Mo. Once completed, the Bloomfield plant produced almost twice the combined production of plants in Paris, Tenn., and Olmsted, Ill.

Improvements to facilities included:

* Installing a 2,000 ton storage tank and air pollution control equipment at the Oran operation.

* Conducting a packaging conversion at the Paris plant that substantially increased its packaging capacity for litter products.

* Installing a new screening operation at the Olmsted plant that removed accumulated dust before litter products were packaged.

By the end of the decade, all operations related to production, marketing and distribution took place at a Lowe’s facility.

Another milestone, Lowe’s launched an export initiative and in 1977 executives traveled to Europe to conduct market research. Both the cat-box-filler and agricultural granule market appeared to have strong potential, and Lowe’s formulated a program to utilize the Olmsted and Paris facilities, both located on rivers, as water shipment points.

Although Lowe’s concentrated on vertical integration during the 1970s, Ed Lowe couldn’t resist scratching his itch for innovation and created a number of new products and services. Many were outside the absorbent clay business, such as Frenchy Bucksaw, a company that produced pre-packaged firewood, and Lowe’s Executive Auction Service, which auctioned everything from furnishings to farm equipment to electronics. Ed also purchased the town of Jones, Mich., and tried to develop it into a tourist attraction.

Fast Facts

1/1/1970 — Ed Lowe helps organize the Sorptive Mineral Institute, a national, nonprofit trade association representing producers and marketers of products made from absorbent clay minerals.

1/1/1972 — Lowe’s Inc. and its subsidiaries employ 250 people.

2/1/1973 — Big Rock Valley Farm now consists of 2,400 acres.

10/8/1974 — Ed Lowe receives U.S. Patent #233,158 for a scoop used to remove waste from sanitary cat boxes, one of the 32 patents he receives during his lifetime.

7/1/1977 — Lowe’s Inc. establishes its first in-house advertising and promotion department.

9/1/1977 — Charlie Chuckles, an animated character serving as a spokesman for Kitty Litter, appears on television for the first time.

9/1/1977— Lowe’s rolls out its new-and-improved Kitty Litter — the first cat-box-filler with a microencapsulated odor-control system.