FAIRFIELD — Dexter Laundry Inc. in Fairfield opened its doors and invited community members in Saturday, Aug. 10, to celebrate its 125th anniversary.
“This is a once in a lifetime event,” said Craig Kirchner, president of Dexter Laundry. “It’s a big milestone.”
The day began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Dexter Laundry, a state-of-the-art self-service laundry.
Before cutting the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors’ ribbon, Kirchner said Dexter had a laundry facility at the corner of West Burlington and Fourth Street for several years, and a decision was made to upgrade it.
Kirchner said not only is the new facility a nice place for community members to wash and dry their laundry — “a daily necessity of life” — but it also is a place where Dexter can bring its sales and maintenance team members to see how its washers and dryers are installed and how to get in to work on them.
Throughout the afternoon, free drying was offered to those using the facilities.
In the afternoon, the party moved to the Dexter Laundry plant on West Grimes Avenue.
The 34th Army Band’s Scrap Metal Band entertained visitors on the main stage, taking a break to let Kirchner and others give a welcome and snippets of information about the manufacturing company’s history throughout the afternoon.
Kirchner told the crowd the celebration was in appreciation of the community’s support of the business. He said multi-generations of families have worked at Dexter, and he is proud the community supports Dexter and that Dexter supports the community.
He also said he is proud to be able to say Dexter’s washers and dryers are made in the USA, in the heart of America, in Fairfield, Iowa.
One of the highlights of the afternoon were the guided tours through the factory because Dexter had not offered public tours since the 1950s.
Visitors were able to take the mile-long walk from the west end of the building, where raw materials enter, to the east end where finished products are shipped out. The tour guides explained the processes and the machines that are used to do the work. Examples of Dexter’s products, from old wooden tub washers to today’s machines, were displayed at the end of the tour.
Organizers estimated about 4,000 people toured the factory Saturday afternoon, with tours starting every 10 minutes.
In addition to the factory tours, visitors also could take a wagon ride, play a bean bag toss game, have their children’s faces painted, enjoy hot dogs and more. They also were able to sign up for door prizes and share their Dexter memories.
Dexter got its start in 1894 in the tiny town of Dexter. It was organized by William H. George to build Dexter washers.
The company and the town both got their names from a champion race horse named Dexter that was known for speed and power. Today’s Dexter logo still uses the Dexter horse icon to symbolize continued dedication to high performance, unmatched strength, unrivaled endurance and loyalty to Dexter customers.
As the company outgrew its space in Dexter, George found what he was looking for in Fairfield: a rural town with a growing population and a town with both an east-west and a north-south railroad for shipping and receiving goods and materials.
A group of Fairfield businessmen bought the company. Ground was broken for a new plant in 1911, and Dexter moved to Fairfield in 1912.
The new facility was built in the mid 1990s, just a few blocks west of the original site. The new building has since been expanded twice.