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12/26/2013 6:00:00 AM
Made in Kingman: Luseaux Laboratories cleans up
Luseaux Laboratories President Marjorie Duffy checks the clarity and viscosity of product at the lab.
Luseaux Laboratories President Marjorie Duffy checks the clarity and viscosity of product at the lab.
Billy Clifton, dry production worker, works with a 5,000-pound mixer. A 2,500-pound mixer can be seen in right background.
Billy Clifton, dry production worker, works with a 5,000-pound mixer. A 2,500-pound mixer can be seen in right background.

Kim Steele
Miner Staff Reporter

KINGMAN - It doesn't take long to meet the gatekeepers at Luseaux Laboratories, Inc.

Harley, a 1-year-old black German shepherd/lab mix dog owned by the plant manager, ambles up to visitors outside the building, sniffing and eagerly expecting a greeting. Inside, 6-year-old Rags, a beagle owned by company president Marjorie Duffy, jumps up from her large dog bed in Duffy's office and happily wags her tail.

It's that friendly, comfortable, family-owned atmosphere that makes Luseaux Laboratories stand out from some of the larger companies in Kingman Industrial Park. Located at 4625 Santa Fe Drive for 18 years, the business manufactures more than 100 commercial detergents, cleaners and sanitizers that are sold to about 250 distributors locally and in Las Vegas, Phoenix and southern California. In turn, those distributors sell the company's products to bars, restaurants and hotels.

Large distributors include Sysco and US. Foods, while smaller distributors are Diamond Janitorial in Kingman, Roadrunner Sanitary Supply in Lake Havasu City and L&M Food Service in Bullhead City. Their Luseaux products include commercial dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent and additives, bleaches, floor cleaners, oven and fryer cleaners, hand soaps, coffee-machine cleaners, air fresheners, bar glasses cleaner and lime removers.

"We do very little retail business," said Duffy. "Retail is low-margin and slow-paying, so it's not really worth it. Commercial business goes with the economy. If people have disposable income, they're going to travel or eat out. And that's good for the businesses that buy our products."

A tour through the 30,000-square-foot building reveals a small beehive of activity among the company's 10 employees. In one area, stacks of filled five-gallon pails, one-gallon bottles and 20- to 100-pound boxes of powder await loading into trucks. Nearby, five large metal tanks ranging in size from 400 to 2,500 gallons mix liquids while in another area, powder is blended in a 2,500-pound or 5,000-pound tank.

Duffy said the company annually manufactures three million pounds of powdered detergent and cleaner, 500,000 gallons of liquid product and processes 1.6 million pounds of surfactant each year. Luseaux Laboratories is headquartered in Gardena, Calif., which is run by Duffy's sister, Kathy Kalohi.

The bulk of the manufacturing takes place in the Kingman plant, which was built in 1994. Duffy said she became a bookkeeper at the California plant in 1981 and worked her way up to president, moving to Kingman when the local business opened.

Actually, the company existed before Duffy's family bought it, said Duffy. It was started in 1927 by R.N. Luse, who added the "aux" to his last name to make the company sound more exotic. Back then, said Duffy, he made vitamins and supplements for the poultry industry. In the late 1930s, Duffy's great-uncle, Thomas B. Hickox, went to work for Luse and eventually bought the company.

Duffy's father, James E. Duffy, served as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy during World War II, then attended college at the University of Southern California, where he studied chemical engineering. James Duffy developed a formula for his own brand of synthetic detergent and decided to go into business with his uncle, bringing along a U.S. Army pilot friend, William B. Edwards, who went to work for the company. When they couldn't pay Edwards for his work, they gave him company stock and Edwards became part owner. He died last year.

"They worked hard at developing the business," said Duffy of her father and Edwards. "They only sold to distributors and it was a very competitive market in southern California. They would go to restaurants and bars and give out product samples so the owners would ask distributors for their products. Through their marketing efforts, they got people to change from the big competitors to Luseaux. It was genius."

Marjorie Duffy came along after studying geology at California State University in Long Beach. On the cusp of beginning a master's degree program in geology, she changed her mind and got a master's degree in business administration. She said oil companies weren't hiring at the time and jobs in hydrogeology didn't interest her. So she went into the family business, where she had worked as a teen.

"You are master of your own destiny when you run a company like this," said Duffy. "The challenging part is dealing with all the government regulations. The fun part is being able to solve problems and make improvements without having to get permission from the higher ups. I enjoy dealing with the customers and providing good service to our distributors."

Duffy admitted the growing number of government regulations has been a struggle for her. She said the rules were more relaxed in the 1980s, but have tightened significantly since then, especially in the past 13 years. They include Obamacare, the environment, labor laws and increasing taxes. Because the company is small, Duffy can't afford to hire someone to deal with the complex regulations and must meet them herself, with the help of her sister in California.

"I don't see a whole lot of economic growth in the near future for the U.S.," said Duffy. "And I see our customers going through the same thing. They are affected by the same regulations we are, and it hurts them when our prices have to go up because of those regulations. Growth in the country has been stagnant. During the 1980s, there were hundreds of thousands of new jobs created every month. Now there are less than 100,000. That's pathetic."

Duffy said one of the ways the company has made it through hard times is by branching out. During the last recession almost two years ago, a nationwide company asked her to manufacture for it the raw material that goes into detergents - the liquid surfactant that creates foam in cleaning agents. Now, said Duffy, Luseaux Laboratories is the only company west of the Mississippi that makes it, selling it to competitors through its distributors.

Duffy said she is pleased at how the company has evolved under her leadership and the products it now offers. She said her father continues to give her advice if she asks for it, but otherwise leaves her to make decisions as she sees fit. Duffy said she has reached all the goals she set when she first took over as company president.

"I always wanted to expand our sales and I have, to some degree," said Duffy. "Also, I wanted better organization here and for the company to become more automated and reduce its labor costs. And my No. 1 goal was for this company to provide a good living for my family. I'm pleased with what we've done and I've enjoyed my time here."

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2014
Article comment by: Edward Tomchin

It takes a numbskull to be against government regulation. It's there to protect the consumer against unscrupulous, irrascible, corrupt and just plain incompetent manufacturers. Even with all the regulations we have to ensure products that don't kill or maim us, there is still a lot of corruption and unscruplous behavior by manufacturers.

Yes, it's a shame that honest and decent manufacturers have to suffer as a result, but there's no way to separate the wheat from the chaff. And we need even more regulation because business owners try to cut corners all the time, and especially bankers ... you know, the ones that ran our economy into the ground out of greed.

A lot of people would do away with regulation but they are blind of the dire results that would happen.

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013
Article comment by: Just Wondering

Why do some people turn virtually any article on any subject into a political rant against "liberals" or whoever they don't like? Sometimes it seems like they don't even bother reading the article before they go off on their political comments. This is an interesting article that gives us a chance to learn something about one of our local business. I think all Kingman residents of all political persuasions want our businesses to do well and the local economy to grow, so why turn this into just yet another divisive political rant?

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013
Article comment by: Justa Citizen

biker randy

I agree with you on every point, but I believe there are "some" liberals out there who have a different agenda.
They think government control is the panacea to solving all our problems. They think the government knows best on how we should run our lives. Or maybe they are just too lazy to want to go to the trouble of running their lives and want somebody else to take care of them.

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013
Article comment by: Appreciating our local businesses

It is nice to see these articles about some of our local businesses, and we all wish them success. I wonder what Ms. Duffy means, though, about taxes going up since the 1980s and also about having to deal with Obamacare rules. Corporate taxes are actually lower now than they were in the 1980s, and Obamacare shouldn't affect her company since she only has ten employees. (It applies to companies with 50 or more full-time employees.) In any case, I wish Luseaux Laboratories so much profit and success that they do grow to the point where they need that many employees in the future.

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013
Article comment by: biker randy

This is a real example of what it takes to keep a business operating and how the Fed. govt. is making it harder for businesses to stay in business.

I hope you liberals here learn something. But I doubt you will. And the fact all the regulations a business has to meet are all passed onto the customers of the business.

This true story also shows why many employees are replaced by machines if possible to keep the cost of doing business down = lower cost to the customer to buy the product.

Instead you liberals demand higher minimum wages and unions to force businesses to pay their employees more = higher prices for their product to customers = higher cost of living for those customers. So when operating costs go up so do product prices. So tell me liberals, where's the improvement in life ? For the majority there isn't any. But you're too stupid to figure this out.

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2013
Article comment by: Economic Development Articles

Finally an article about a business in the business park. There are some amazing companies that do business in Kingman, but if you polled Kingman citizens I don't think many really know. Goodyear Aviation. Lamanco. Carnak. Isco. Cantex. The list continues... Need more exposure.

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