WINONA, Minn. – There are few products more quintessentially American, and rural, than the galvanized washtub or bucket. A key maker of these products is Behrens, founded in 1911. Today, the metalmaker offers a wide variety of pails, washbuckets, and watering cans, all with the distinctive feel of a vintage product, yet completely new.
For this Fourth of July, buy some Behrens tubs for your picnic, fill them with ice and drinks, and enjoy what is a long American tradition. Like Lodge Manufacturing iron skillets, Aermotor windmills, or Ames shovels, they are products that are not only made in the United States, but last for generations, and do something quite practical.
The virtues of the simple galvanized pail do not need to be spelled out; they are not only functional, but handsome, and last for decades, until they can be recycled into new products. Behrens has managed to hang onto its identity, without cheapening its products, or sending every bit of production offshore, which is the route most American companies have taken.
Not all of their products are American made. There is no reason for this. A long-lasting household product is the ideal candidate for being Made in the U.S.A. for a number of reasons. Home Depot, Walmart and Lowe’s have done a great disservice to consumers by sending so much production overseas. They cheapen themselves, and annoy consumers.
First, there is less price senstitivity when you have a product that lasts for decades; the small premium that might be paid by the consumer is negligible. Second, there are few competitors, and the right price for a pail or bucket not clear. A few extra dollars is negligible. Third, the issue of quality is important. It is depressing to a consumer to have something break, when the item is clearly something that should normally last for years and years.
Mill City Capital, a Minneapolis-based private equity firm, holds a controlling interest in the company. In 2019, they announced the hiring of Ron Hornbaker as President and CEO.
Their current catalog describes their product selection as Metalware Classics and Home Industrials. Inside are gems that include planters, compost cans, washer boards (yes, they still exist), funnels, and every manner of pail and bucket. There are also some decorative baked enamel buckets, as well as baked enamel camp cups.
A current Behrens Metalware catalog features historic photographs of the company.
Year founded: 1911
Hometown: Winona, Minnesota
Address: Behrens Manufacturing, 1250 E. Sanborn St., Winona, Minnesota 55987
Founder: Henry J. Behrens