70-Year-Old Company Sold to Southland Investors : Pair Buy Van de Kamp's Bakery

Times Staff Writer

Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch Bakers Inc., whose trademark blue windmills have been well known around the Southwest since 1915, was recently sold to private investors for an undisclosed sum, it was learned Wednesday.

President and owner Jack W. Leeney sold the baking company on Jan. 28 to investors William Zimmerman of Pasadena and James Galbraith of San Marino, a company spokesman said.

Leeney, 44, was replaced as president and chief executive by Richard B. Gordinier, 43, a former cosmetics executive who most recently headed a computer software firm, the spokesman said.

Leeney was unavailable for comment about why he sold the firm. Gordinier said Zimmerman and Galbraith approached Leeney to see if he was interested in selling and Leeney "was interested in some new challenges."

"We do think it's a very exciting business with a wonderful name that's been in existence for seven decades," Galbraith said. "We feel very confident about its future."

Gordinier said the company is expanding the area in which products are distributed, recently adding several stores in Phoenix and Tucson. But the company is constrained in its expansion efforts because "our business has been built on providing fresh products to the marketplace," Gordinier said.

"What we bake tonight (at the company's facility in northeast Los Angeles) is delivered to stores tomorrow," so that limits how far the company can expand, he said.

Van de Kamp's was founded by Lawrence L. Frank and Theodore Van de Kamp, uncle of California Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp.

The original store at Second and Spring streets in Los Angeles sold potato chips but soon added S-shaped macaroons and salted pretzels. The bakery division of the company has since swelled to more than 900 outlets in supermarkets in California, Nevada and Arizona.

Van de Kamp's, which included coffee shops and the supermarket self-serve outlets, was sold to Stamford, Conn.-based General Host Corp., then called General Baking Co., in 1956. General Host sold the coffee shops in 1973 to the Tiny Naylor restaurant chain, which converted the name.

General Host sold Van de Kamp's separate bakery division, called Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch Bakers Inc., to a group of investors headed by Leeney in 1979. Leeney subsequently bought out the other investors.

General Host sold the last of the Van de Kamp's operations, the frozen food division, in 1984 to Minneapolis-based Pillsbury Co.

Van de Kamp's Holland Dutch Bakers has about 600 employees. The private company doesn't release sales figures, and Gordinier declined to discuss financial results.

Zimmerman is an investor who owns several manufacturing companies. Galbraith is a Los Angeles lawyer and owner of several businesses and is also the author of "The Money Tree," a book on free enterprise.

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