Our Story: The History of United Bags
In the early 1900’s Isaac Greenberg came to the United States for a better life for his family. He started buying used bags from feed, flour and coffee companies. When first starting out, he would use a backpack to carry the used bags. Soon after a lot of hard work, Isaac was able to buy a horse and wagon. He would do his buying in the morning, sort and bale the bags in the afternoon, and then after a shower and lunch, go out to resell the bags. He eventually could afford moving his family (wife and four children) to the St. Louis area. Isaac established a small used bag company that he named “Republic Bag Company” and bought a four-story building in downtown St. Louis.
After Isaac’s youngest son, Morris, gained experience outside of the family business, he joined his father in 1931. Father and son worked together until Isaac’s passing in November of 1940. Morris took over the presidency of Republic Bag Company.
During World War II, the feed industry was short on bags. Morris sold the idea of a return bag program to Ralston Purina, making them the company’s largest customer. At one time Morris was processing 125,000-150,000 feed bags a day for Ralston Purina. This return bag program for Ralston Purina feed bags expanded across the country.
By 1949 Morris saw an opportunity to start manufacturing new textile bags and he moved into our current location of a 300,000 sq ft warehouse centrally located in St.Louis, MO.
In 1952 Morris’s oldest son Herb graduated from the University of Missouri. Morris wanted Herb to gain experience in the bag business away from the St. Louis operation. Morris and five other bag manufacturers established a multi-wall bag plant in Kansas City called “Allied Paper Bag Corporation”. Because of the proximity to the flour mills in Kansas, Allied made mostly paper flour bags.
Herb was made President of Allied Paper Bag Corporation. The owners of Allied, including the Greenbergs, sold the paper bag manufacturing plant (not the name Allied) to National Container. Later, that same plant with a few additions, became Stone Container’s Kansas City plant. Herb Greenberg and Eldon Brown started a new bag company called “Allied Paper Bag Company”.
Herb had also been working for Pioneer Bag Company. Pioneer Bag owned Pioneer Mesh Bag Company. The Greenberg family acquired the Pioneer Bag companies in 1954. Pioneer bag was making 100,000 textile bags per day. Allied Paper was making 80,000 paper bags a day. Pioneer Mesh was manufacturing material to make cabbage and onion bags.
As the business grew, Herb’s brother-in-law Ken Fox and his cousin Dick Greenberg moved from St. Louis to Kansas City to join Herb at Pioneer Bag Company.
In the mid 1960’s a new material was developed, woven polypropylene. So, in 1967, Pioneer Bag Company (under the name “Synthetic Industries”) started extruding and weaving their own woven polypropylene. Pioneer Bag Company received the U.S. Government’s first order for woven polypropylene sandbags. This first order was for 50 million bags!
During the Vietnam War, Pioneer Bag Company was making 400,000 sandbags per day and employing 500 people. The company made over 200,000,000 woven polypropylene sandbags from 1967 to 1969. Knowing that the Vietnam War was ending and they had large Sultzer looms, they started looking for uses for the Synthetic Industries’ woven polypropylene. They started selling the woven polypropylene as carpet backing, replacing jute carpet backing. As a result of Pioneer Bag Company’s success, the company was made an offer by Diversified Industries that could not be turned down.
In 1971 Herb moved to St. Louis to work with his father Morris at United Bags, Inc. With Herb’s manufacturing experience and his relationships with other multi-wall manufacturers, United Bags started brokering multi-wall paper bags. The company continued manufacturing textile bags, processing used bags and selling obsolete paper bags.
United owned a company called “International Distributing”, which was in the business of importing sugar and selling to the feed industry. This company grew rapidly and in 1977 was spun off to Fred Brown, Jr. who was in charge of this division.
In 1979 United Bags, Inc. bought their St. Louis competitor “St. Louis Bag Company”, (formerly known as Missouri Bag Company);this company had been established since 1890. United also acquired a small competitor, “AAA Bags”, which had been successful with used bags. Both companies were incorporated into United Bags, Inc.
Father and son worked together until Morris’s passing in 1987. Herb took over the presidency of United Bags, Inc.
In 1986, after graduating from Arizona State University, Herb’s youngest son Todd wanted to gain business experience outside of the family business. Todd started in commercial real estate and was successful in leasing and sales of retail shopping centers. This was a great career for Todd, but he wanted to work with his dad.
In 1992 Todd moved back to St. Louis to become the 4th generation Greenberg in the bag business, continuing the company’s tradition of a father and son team. Todd’s experience brought a different energy and expertise to an old family business. One of the first things Todd did was to install a complete new software package, thereby ensuring the business to run more efficiently. He also hired a young dynamic sales team, and developed a dedicated customer service team.
While still manufacturing textile bags, United was working hard to become a diversified distributor of industrial bags and packaging. New products were added to the product lines: bulk bags, polyethylene bags, consumer packaging, BOPP bags, Combo bags, slip sheets, tape and stretch wrap.
In 2001 Herb stepped into the role of Chief Executive Officer, promoting Todd to President of United Bags, Inc., and they continued as a father and son team until Herb's passing.
While United Bags has had a rich and exciting history, it is even more exciting working toward ensuring the future for yet a 5th generation.