Prince Corporation was originally founded in Marshfield, Wisconsin as Banner Mills in 1886 by William H. Upham. Upham, a decorated civil war veteran and early Governor of Wisconsin, built the town’s first general store and saw mill (1878), furniture factory (1882), and mill (1886). In 1887, a fire destroyed much of the city of Marshfield. Upham, the city’s principal employer, developer, and mayor, decided to rebuild and keep his businesses in Marshfield. Had this not occurred, Marshfield may not have rebounded from the devasting fire.
In 1922 H.C. Koenig (Koenig is German for “king”) traded his grocery store in Marshfield for the mill and renamed the company Marshfield Milling. When H.C. died in 1934, his son, Walter (nicknamed “Prince”, for being a “son of king”), took over and began to expand the company. Marshfield Milling developed and produced a full line of animal feeds and minerals. Under his leadership, the company became a full-service distributor of animal feeds and agricultural supplies throughout central and northern Wisconsin.
In the 1970’s, a wild bird seed manufacturing plant was added and the company branched into providing wild bird seed and outdoor feeding supplies. Also at this time, the company began distributing its line of tools, seeds, and fertilizers to the garden and landscape industry. In 1981, the name of the company was changed to Prince Corporation in honor of Walter “Prince” Koenig. Prince Koenig’s sons, John and Mike, ran the company and expanded its delivery area to include most of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
In 1997, the company was purchased by Jay Emling, John Silseth, and Dennis Wessel – the company’s former General Manager. Under new ownership, Prince Corporation set out to transform the company from primarily a supplier of hardware and bagged feed and seed items to a full-line agricultural, wild bird, pet, and lawn and garden supplier. In 1999, a second location was added in Kingsbury, Indiana, allowing Prince Corporation to be able to now service much of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and parts of Ohio.
In the fall of 2013, Prince Corporation took its next big step in expanding the business by purchasing a southern Illinois-based company, Siemer Enterprises. Siemer had a very similar operating philosophy to Prince’s, based on servicing the retail customers in agricultural, lawn and garden, pet, and wild bird supplies, making them a natural fit to help expand the business. This acquisition added a third operating location based in Teutopolis, Illinois and afforded Prince the opportunity to sell products into Missouri, parts of Kentucky, and far-reaching service areas in Indiana and Illinois.
In 2018, Shaun Quinlan joined Jay Emling and John Silseth as a part of Prince Corporation’s ownership group after the retirement of Dennis Wessel, with Quinlan serving as Chief Executive Officer. Quinlan, Emling, Silseth, and Steve Binder also own a sister company, Prince Building Systems, which distributes building supplies throughout portions of the upper Midwest, with Binder serving as President.
For over 100 years, Prince Corporation has continued to grow as a business, and more importantly, evolve with the times and customer trends. Where at the start, customer orders (hand-written) were fulfilled manually and delivered locally (via horse-drawn carriage); today, customers across the country can click a button on their computer and receive product (portions of which may have been fulfilled robotically and all delivered via AI-enabled routing software) from Prince the next day.
Throughout Prince’s long history, change has been constant; however, one thing that has remained the same is the company’s focus on their customers, vendors, and employees. Because of Prince’s sincere desire to help its stakeholders succeed and willingness to embrace change, the company is well-positioned to continue to grow for the next 100 years.