Bigelow Tea plant located near Jeffersontown. 
Bigelow Tea plant located near Jeffersontown.  [Photography Provided]

Bigelow Tea Company – Louisville

Bigelow Tea products are enjoyed by millions across the United States, with over 150 varieties adorning grocery shelves nationwide. Much of that is produced right here in Louisville, thanks to a dedicated team of employees who keep the family-owned business thriving.

Headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, Bigelow Tea Company has had a presence in Louisville for over 30 years, manufacturing a billion bags of tea annually at its plant located near Jeffersontown.

“Louisville is a fantastic, centralized spot in terms of distribution,” said Bigelow CEO and President Cindi Bigelow. “It’s our largest facility and we have a great labor force there. It’s a wonderful location and a very business-friendly community.”

Ruth, David Jr, David Sr
Bigelow Tea founder Ruth Campbell Bigelow, David Jr, David Sr

Bigelow Tea was founded by Cindi’s grandmother, Ruth Campbell Bigelow, in 1945 after she became dissatisfied with the tea that was common during this time period. Ruth experimented with blending black tea, orange rind and sweet spices, then shared her new recipe with friends to glowing reviews. Thanks to her efforts and with the help of her husband, David E. Bigelow Sr., Bigelow Tea was born.

Ruth passed the company to her son, David C. Bigelow, who led the company for 50 years as Bigelow Tea became one of the top specialty tea makers in the country. Cindi became the third-generation Bigelow family member to hold the role of CEO in 2005 and has continued Bigelow’s growth as a family-owned and -operated business. Under her leadership the Bigelow Tea Company became the #1 specialty tea in America.

That family mindset is prevalent throughout the company’s locations, with Cindi making frequent trips to Louisville, taking on a tradition her father started before her.

“We are blessed to be a family company,” Bigelow said. “We make sure we work really hard to keep that feel in our Louisville facility.”

The Louisville team includes a staff of about 130 and is led by a group of long-term employees who wear many hats and enjoy working alongside each other.

“There’s nothing we wouldn’t do for this company,” said Frank Buzzutto, the plant’s production manager. “It’s work but it doesn’t feel like work. It’s way more personal. That’s not a typical environment in corporate America, but that is what makes Bigelow special.”

Cindi’s father, David, originally identified Louisville as an ideal location for expansion after seeing the growth of the company’s product in the southern part of the country. Recently, Bigelow leaders showed their commitment to the area by purchasing land about a mile from the current facility that will eventually be home to a new, 300,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building in the next couple of years.

“It’s going to be absolutely beautiful,” Bigelow said. “We have a guy leading the project who is from Louisville. He has worked with all the employees and visited the other facilities to figure out the best Bigelow Tea plant layout and that’s what we’re building. It’s very exciting.”

The new facility will feature the latest equipment to keep the company producing high-quality products, while allowing for upgrades that will improve the health and well-being of all employees with a new cafeteria and locker-room space. Bigelow said the company team worked hard to honor the commitment of the Louisville team by keeping the new plant close to the area where most live.

“One of the reasons why we bought property only a mile away from our current property is because when we mapped out where our current employees lived, it would have been a tremendous inconvenience for some of them if we moved out,” Bigelow said. “We worked really hard to honor where they lived and still fill our need to expand. We’re very fortunate to find that space so close to us that our employees will not be inconvenienced when we make the move.”

bigelowWhile communication could seemingly be challenging with facilities thousands of miles apart, Louisville team members said they have no issues ensuring they are working towards the company’s overall goals.

“We handle communication very well,” said Nico Campbell, the plant’s day shift lead operator. “We get our marching orders and we get it done. We all work as a team – all three shifts.”

In addition to keeping things fun during working hours, the Bigelow Tea leaders also strive to keep their employees engaged when they’re not working. One of Bigelow’s biggest events is the annual Tea Pot Dinner, which brings together all employees who have been with the company seven years or longer for a night of food, dancing, and fun. The company also participates in a number of philanthropy events throughout the city, including the annual Kentucky Derby Festival Bed Race.

“We like to bring all of our shifts together,” said Thad Judy, human resource manager. “Some folks on nights don’t see the others on days, so we try to create that bond where everyone knows everyone. It’s all a lot of fun.”

The Bigelow family values have imprinted on the company and its workforce as a whole. Cindi Bigelow makes it a point to communicate and share with employees during big events and anniversaries, while speaking with as many team members in person as she can while visiting.

“It’s important you visit and you send other people from [Connecticut] who have that same cultural commitment,” she said. “It takes a long time to build that kind of culture, and then you have to keep it going.”

Employees have taken the actions from the Bigelows to heart and use them as motivation to make the Louisville factory the best it can be.

“We have the Bigelow values and we preach that to everyone,” said Wayne Hendrix, factory manager. “We make sure we treat everyone the right and fair way. That is how Cindi and her family want this company to be run.”

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