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Wilton Celebrates Its 80th Anniversary
An industry giant began in a single room.
by Staff Report (February 21, 2008)
Wilton Enterprises, one of the industry's dominant vendors, is
celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. But it's been a long,
The company started in 1929 when Dewey McKinley Wilton opened a
cake decorating and candy making school for caterers and chefs in a
room of his Chicago home. Having worked in a candy factory from an
early age, when he was about 14 years old Wilton perfected the craft
of pulled sugar candy making. He was taught cake decorating from
German and French pastry chefs, in return for teaching them about
The first classes Dewey taught cost $25 per lesson, quite a lot
of money in those days. In addition to teaching, he created
specialty cakes for fancy caterers in the Chicago area and worked in
various hotel bakeries.
The ban of certain sweets during the Great Depression didn't
impact classes. Wilton began traveling to other cities and
conducting classes for 5-6 students daily.
By 1946, Wilton had returned to teaching from his home. A
full-page, black-and-white ad in Baker's Helper magazine
caught the attention of seven students at $150 each for a two-week
cake decorating class – the predecessor to the famous Wilton
Master Class, which continues today in Darien, IL, attracting
students from around the world.
When the classes grew too big for his home, Wilton moved to
various rented locations, finally settling in 1948 in a new 6,000
sq. ft. building in Chicago. At that time, the Wilton family began
teaching baker's cake decorating under the GI Bill of Rights. The
classes included cake decorating and candy making with an emphasis
on projects people could make in a shop and earn a profit. The
classes were expanded to 40-50 students.
By 1950, the focus of classes shifted once more, forcing another
move. At the same time, the Wilton family opened a bridal cake shop.
The family also began working on their first book. In 1954, the
self-published Encyclopedia of Modern Cake Decorating sold
more than 10,000 copies in its first printing. Intended as a
step-by-step guide to cake decorating techniques, the book contained
very little writing and was mostly photos.
Readers were soon looking to buy the decorating supplies featured
in the book, but no vendors specialized in these items for the
public. So in 1959, Norman Wilton, Dewey's son, started a mail-order
business, providing decorating ideas, paste colors, decorating bags,
couplers, parchment paper, and metal turntables to the consumer.
This new business venture forced another move to a new 12,000 sq.
ft. facility where Wilton started to make its first product, the Tuk-N-Ruffle.
Still sold today, it is a plastic lacy ruffling that is put around
the base of the cake to make it appear decorated even before icing
decorations are added.
In 1964, the first Wilton cake decorating book was published to
support the cake business, retailing for just $1. The book contained
129 black-and-white pictures, plus some colored pages. In 1970, the Wilton
Yearbook came out in its current form.
Others were published every two years and in 1976, the yearbook
started being published annually. Wilton continues to publish dozens
of publications on cake decorating, wedding, baking, cookie, and
In March 1977, Vince Naccarato was announced President of Wilton
Enterprises and moved the business to its present location in
Woodridge, IL. In 1984, his vision of the expansion of Wilton
Enterprises continued with the purchase of Copco, creating a major
presence in the domestic and international housewares arena.
In 1989, Wilton created The Weston Gallery division which
designs, develops, and distributes its own line of picture frames
and home decor products. In 1991, Rowoco, a kitchen gadget company,
was acquired and was rolled into the Copco division in 2005. In
1996, a Canadian bakery distributor was purchased and is now the
office for Canadian operations.
In 2006, Wilton added a public television series, Bake
Decorate Celebrate!, which features decorating ideas and
techniques for every occasion. Two to three feature segments tie
each episode theme together, with shorter, more instructional
segments intermixed. More than 25,000 shows have aired, Wilton
Wilton continues to operate its world-renowned Wilton School of
Cake Decorating and Confectionery Arts, which is approved by the
Illinois Board of Education and teaches advanced courses and
decorating techniques to more than 1,500 students per year. In
addition, 230,000 people annually attend Wilton Method classes in
department, craft, and specialty shops.
Today, Wilton Enterprises is the market leader in cake, candy,
cookie, wedding, bakeware, and home celebration products. The
company markets more than 4,000 products in 15,000+ U.S. major
department, craft, and specialty stores, as well as by mail and on
the Internet at www.wilton.com.
Products are also offered in 105 countries.
Staying true to the company's belief in education, products
carefully explain features, usage and provide project ideas.
On August 1, 2007, Wilton Industries was acquired by GTCR, a
leading Chicago-based private equity investment firm. The merger of
Wilton, EK Success, Dimensions, and K & Company positions Wilton
as the largest, most diversified company in the industry.
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