Colony Brands, Inc. (formerly, The Swiss Colony, Inc.) is a mail-order and electronic retail company known for its cheese, sausage, chocolate, fruitcakes, and other food products. The company also features extensive offerings in furniture, home decor, apparel, entertainment products, and electronics. It is one of the largest direct marketers in the United States.
The company was founded in 1926 in Monroe, Wisconsin, a town with a strong concentration of Swiss immigrants and a storied history of cheese production. Ray Kubly, then a senior at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, completed a project for one of his classes by analyzing the business case for selling Green County cheese via mail order. Following graduation, Ray decided to pursue the venture and commenced operations from his family's basement. In the first year of operation, only 50 orders of cheese were shipped. However, the company grew steadily over the years and began to attract regional and national recognition. Sausage as well as bakery products and confections were gradually added to the company's offerings. The company made its first entry into non-food merchandising in 1982.
Colony Brands, Inc. and its affiliated companies now employ more than 4,500 people. Approximately 50% of these individuals work on a temporary basis during peak operations in fall and holiday seasons.
In recognition of its strong roots in southern Wisconsin, the company sponsors the Swiss Colony Cheese Days Parade in Green County, Wisconsin every September in even numbered years.
The company changed its name from The Swiss Colony, Inc. to Colony Brands, Inc. on June 1, 2010 in an effort to "better reflect its position as a parent company for our extensive portfolio of food and non-food catalogs, internet and subsidiaries."
In addition to its namesake Swiss Colony brand, Colony Brands, Inc. operates catalog businesses under numerous names.
In August 2008, a Swiss Colony subsidiary purchased the assets of bankrupt retailer Direct Marketing Services Inc., giving Swiss Colony control of DMSI's direct-mail brands:
- Montgomery Ward (general merchandise)
- Charles Keath (home decor)
- Home Visions (bedding, furniture, home décor)
Colony Brands owns many different catalog companies, including Ashro, Montgomery Ward, The Swiss Colony, Wisconsin Cheeseman, Midnight Velvet, Home at Five, Ginny's, Monroe and Maine, Country Door, Tender Filet, and Seventh Avenue, the latter of which is considered their flagship catalog.
Colony Brands, Inc. also maintains a controlling interest in Janesville, Wisconsin-based SC Aviation, Inc., a provider of aircraft charter and management services.
Colony Brands, Inc. has been headquartered in Monroe, Wisconsin since its inception and concentrates its operations in the upper midwest United States. Primary facilities are located in:
- Monroe, Wisconsin - Corporate headquarters; SC Data Center, Inc.; Integrated Marketing Solutions, Inc.; DM Services, Inc.; Green County Foods, Inc.; SC Global Sourcing, Inc.
- Madison, Wisconsin
- Dickeyville, Wisconsin
- Janesville, Wisconsin - SC Aviation, Inc.
- Savanna, Illinois
- Westmont, Illinois
- Clinton, Iowa
- Davenport, Iowa
- DeWitt, Iowa
- Peosta, Iowa - Colony Brands, Inc. (order fulfillment)
- Hannibal, Missouri - SC Data Center, Inc. (customer service and order taking)
During the 1960s and '70s, The Swiss Colony became well known for establishing a nationwide network of retail stores located in shopping malls throughout the United States, growing to more than 225 locations. The company made a strategic decision to end these operations in the early 1980s in order to refocus on catalog operations. This was due to an economic downturn and resulting high costs of rental space in suitable shopping centers. The company does continue to maintain outlet store facilities in Monroe, Wisconsin and Davenport, Iowa.
Pat Kubly assumed leadership of the company from his father, founder Ray Kubly, in 1969. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board. Colony Brands, Inc. President John Baumann is in charge of day-to-day operations. Ray Kubly's grandson, Ryan Kubly, is the Director of Strategic Planning.