Soapmaker Gilchrist & Soames scooped up by Sysco unit

A subsidiary of food distribution giant Sysco Corp. has purchased Plainfield-based Gilchrist & Soames, a luxury toiletry maker with $60 million in sales per year.

A Gilchrist & Soames spokesman told IBJ on Monday morning that the firm’s manufacturing and distribution operations would remain in the Indianapolis area, where it currently employs about 135 workers. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Guest Supply, a wholly owned unit of Houston-based Sysco, acquired Gilchrist & Soames from San Francisco-based private equity firm Swander Pace Capital. It bought the toiletry maker in 2007 for $51 million from a firm headed by local businessman Al Hubbard.

"Joining Guest Supply will allow Gilchrist & Soames to leverage manufacturing facilities, supply chains, logistics, and product development and creative resources that will further benefit our customers," said Kathie De Voe, CEO of Gilchrist & Soames, in a prepared statement.

Guest Supply provides products for nearly 25,000 hotels, resorts and spas in more than 100 countries. Gilchrist & Soames produces high-end soaps, shampoos and conditioners under such labels as Verde, BeeKind, Spa Therapy and Essentiel Elements.

It was founded by brothers Tony and Michael Karger in 1975 in England. Potter & Moore bought it from the brothers in 1984. Indianapolis-based E&A Industries, led by Hubbard, acquired the company and moved North American operations to Indianapolis in 1998.

The move to Indianapolis helped the firm tap the world’s largest hotel market—the United States. Several years after Swander Pace purchased the company,  it moved from a location southeast of downtown to a 250,000-square-foot warehouse facility in Plainfield.

Under Swander Pace, Gilchrist & Soames expanded its client base from predominantly boutique luxury hotels in North America to internationally prestigious brands such as The Peninsula Hotels, Hyatt and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.

“I want to thank Swander Pace for being an incredible partner,” De Voe said. “With their support and guidance, we’ve nearly doubled the size of our business, expanded to new markets and properties around the world, invested in and built a best-in-class new headquarters facility in Indianapolis, and secured the interest of a new partner to build on that momentum.”

The company also will continue to maintain operations in Peterborough, England.

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