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Viking Range building special products, corporate culture

Now synonymous with the epicurean lifestyle, Greenwood-based Viking Range Corporation began in 1987 as a small manufacturer of commercial-style ranges designed for the home. Today, the company manufactures a full line of kitchen appliances and cookware, including ranges, refrigerators, grills, dishwashers, ovens, cooktops, cookware, cutlery and even small appliances such as blenders and mixers.

The corporate philosophy is that Viking Range is more than just a range, it’s a way of life for both the customers as well as the employees.

“It’s our mission to provide the best quality and best performing product for our customers,” said Dale Persons, Viking’s vice president of corporate development. Over the years, while introducing new products to its line, Viking created its own culture of creativity and innovation. Innovations require innovators, and every single member of the Viking team fits the bill. From the board room to the plant floor, everyone shares the vision of perfection. “We strive to provide a fulfilling and satisfying work environment for our employees, creating a company that they will be proud to work for, while being a good corporate citizen, not just locally but statewide, as well.”

Necessity, it has been said, is the mother of invention. Greenwood native Fred Carl is a fourth-generation building contractor. When building his new home in the 1980s, he wanted a commercial-type range for his home, but he quickly discovered one didn’t exist.

Carl’s wife, Margaret, loved the heavy-duty performance and classic look of her mother’s old Chambers stove. But Chambers had long since ceased production. Carl looked to the world of commercial ranges, but he soon realized that a commercial range would be impractical for a home kitchen. Many late nights at the drawing board resulted in a hybrid that had the cooking power and features of a professional range, but was designed for home use.

Consumers respond

Carl tried to share his idea with several commercial range manufacturers, but they showed little interest. He finally persuaded a small company in southern California to produce the first Viking Range for him. Once the ranges received the American Gas Association’s certification in late 1986, the consumer response was overwhelming to the contract manufacturer. Carl soon opened his own manufacturing plant in Greenwood, and in time, realized that there was room for professional performance in all areas of the kitchen.

When people think of Viking, the distinctive commercial look of the Professional Series range is usually what pops in their head. Whether it’s a delicate creme brulee or a hearty rack of lamb, the ranges have premium features such as high-performance burners, convection baking and infrared broiling to handle a variety of dishes. The Professional Series is available in gas and electric models as well as a variety of sizes and finishes.

The Designer Series is for those who want the professional performance without the professional look. The series features clean lines and contours that meld gracefully onto cabinets, which offers a striking new look for Viking. “We are still the recognized leader when it comes to commercial performance ranges for the home,” Persons said. “With our new Designer series, we still offer all the performance people have come to expect from Viking without the look of a restaurant range.”

Viking has grown from a small manufacturing facility in a converted warehouse in Greenwood to corporate headquarters that occupy an entire block of Greenwood’s historic Cotton Row. The company also operates three manufacturing plants and a distribution center with over 1,000 employees on the local payroll. Today’s facilities utilize state-of-the-art machinery, diagnostic checkpoints and progressive production techniques to keep things running smoothly, both on the line and in the kitchen.

Architecture and atmosphere

Viking has led the charge in revitalizing downtown Greenwood. With each company expansion, another historic building is restored. The Viking offices are spread between 12 buildings, all of which are located on the National Register of Historic Places. The comfortable feel of the architecture works well with the family atmosphere of the Viking headquarters.

The cooking products plant now encompasses 230,000 square feet. The 153,000-square-foot refrigeration plant sits next door, with a 95,000-square-foot ventilation plant located just down the road. The smaller plant is located adjacent to the 80,000-square-foot distribution center. The Viking spirit of self-sufficiency keeps all these facilities in Greenwood. And the Viking dedication to innovation will ensure that they will continue to expand in the future.

Having the corporate headquarters located in a small Delta town is somewhat like a double-edged sword, according to Persons. “Some people just don’t feel comfortable in a small town, for whatever reason. Many prefer more of a ‘big city’ atmosphere. But we feel that Greenwood has so much to offer, and it’s just a short drive away from Memphis or Jackson. Small-town living has its advantages, and people who want to raise their kids in a wholesome environment are drawn to this area. Greenwood has a lot going on right now with the downtown revitalization, the Alluvian Hotel and other projects. We find it’s getting better every day and we are proud to have our corporate headquarters located in Greenwood.”

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