Natural Choices Refillables is the newest product available from Racine's Pacific Sands Inc.
"Where's Curacao?" Mick Wynhoff yells to a couple of employees on the Pacific Sands' manufacturing floor in the former Hamilton Beach building on Rapids Drive in Racine.
They both shrug. A third employee jumps in and says it's an island off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea.
Wynhoff (right) is interested in the quick geography lesson because Pacific Sands is the leading supplier of cleaning supplies to the island nation. It's not a major market - Curacao's population is about 140,000, just barely larger than eastern Racine County - but it's a sign of Pacific Sands' international reach.
The growing Racine company, which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the symbol PFSD, has clients in the U.S., Europe and South America. (The name Pacific Sands is a carryover from a small West Coast company Wynhoff purchased and moved to Racine. The company was traded publicly when Wynhoff purchased it.)
Pacific Sands specializes in manufacturing eco-friendly household cleaning supplies. The company's top seller is its Eco-One spa treatment system, which reduces the overall chemical load of consumer hot tubs and spas. It also produces chlorine and phosphate free laundry, dishwasher and general cleaning solutions.
Manufacturing equipment at Pacific Sands' plant in the former Hamilton Beach building
at 1509 Rapids Drive in Racine.
The company runs on a relatively small staff, but still manages to develop, test, manufacture and sell its products. Pacific Sands employs two chemists, including a former chemist at SC Johnson, and runs a small lab dedicated to removing chemicals from commonly used products.
Wynhoff, who is passionate about banishing complex compounds from home and work environments, said most of their work is common sense.
"This stuff isn't brain surgery," he said. "It just takes more thought."
Pacific Sands' latest product is an example of a "green" company converting its eco-concerns into intelligent business. Pacific Sands recently released a line of chemical-free cleaners this month called "Natural Choices Refillables."
The glass, bathroom, degreaser and multi-surface cleaning products are sold as a concentrate that consumers mix with water in a spray bottle. Wynhoff laid out a number of advantages for consumers and for Pacific Sands:
* Bottles of concentrate contain enough product to fill four spray bottles (see right). In other words, consumers are getting four bottles for the price of one. (Labels developed on the concentrate bottles show how much of the liquid to mix with water in the spray bottles.)
* The concentrate is free of harsh chemicals and chlorine, which makes for a safer environment. (Wynhoff pointed out the irony of cleaning with toxic chemicals.)
* The concentrated cleaning supplies weigh less to ship. One truckload of Pacific Sands' concentrates is equal to 32 truckloads of ready-to-use products. The reduced weight will save thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, and save Pacific Sands thousands of dollars in shipping costs.
Wynhoff said he's hopeful the product takes off as an environmentally responsible way to replace traditional cleaning supplies. If all goes well, the Natural Choices Refillables will allow Pacific Sands to continue its growth into national and international markets.
Along with helping the company expand, Wynhoff said he truly believes in the importance of removing chemicals from our everyday environments. He's thought about these issues since growing up as a Boy Scout and using bio-degradable soaps on camping trips. Mixed with Depression-era parents who learned to get the most out of everything, Wynhoff said he's in touch with the need to conserve and create healthy environments.
"Bleach, ammonia, dye, complex polymers ... we've been painting the planet with a chemical paste and soup," he said.
As a parent of three young daughters, Wynhoff said his goal is to create products he'd feel safe using around them and even letting them use.
"We're dedicated to what we do," he said, "and there's the potential to really, really succeed."
To learn more about Pacific Sands, visit their website at: http://www.pacificsands.biz/