CSW is more than just a commercial endeavor, it’s an extended family. As our recent Wisconsin Family Business of the Year Award citation says, “For 70 years CSW’s success has come from incorporating family values into the best example of what a family business can be: innovative, caring, connected to community, inclusive, and empowering.”
THE CSW LEGACY
Cecil “Jack” (CJ) Williams, a World War One veteran, emigrated from England to Canada to work the wheat fields, and then relocated to Chicago and started working in a truck garage.
CJ Williams moved to Milwaukee, WI, and started his own trucking company, Hillside Garage & Transit.
As an outgrowth of the grocery delivery business, CJ Williams founded Central Storage & Warehouse Co., in Madison, WI, as a produce terminal.
By the ‘50s, Hillside Transit had diversified into hauling fuel oil, and CJ Williams’ son Ken began occasionally working for the company on the docks and in a truck. Ken would later go on to a brief stint in the Marines and then running his own trucking and distributing companies.
Recognizing his industry leadership, members of the American Trucking Association elected CJ Williams as President of the Association.
CSW moved from its downtown location in Madison to a more modern east side location near US Highway 51.
Central Storage grew rapidly. CSW Madison expanded 6 times, and an Eau Claire location was launched in 1965, which was expanded 4 times in this period.
With the death of founder CJ Williams, the company ownership passed into a voting trust consisting of Mrs. Peg Williams, as CSW’s President and Chairman of the Board of Directors, her son Ken, who returned to the company at his father’s request to oversee all operations, and her daughter Gwen Sharratt, along with two company attorneys.
Growth continued at CSW with additions in Madison and Eau Claire of over 2 million cu. ft. each, the purchase of a Wausau warehouse, and the construction of a Menomonie one.
In the spring of 1991, a devastating fire broke out at the Madison facility. Thanks to loyal customers, CSW kept all of its employees, expedited rebuilding, and returned to full operation that fall.
CSW partnered with Northland Cranberries in Wisconsin Rapids to build a cranberry processing and private storage facility. Northland eventually purchased the facility outright.
With settlement money from the 1991 fire, CSW built a new, state of the art facility in Pleasant Prairie, WI to serve southeast Wisconsin and northern Illinois.
With the passing of Mrs. Peg Williams, Mr. Ken Williams assumed the roles of CSW CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors. Through share purchase from the other shareholders, Ken became sole owner of CSW. CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Longtime employee John Winegarden was named to the CEO position. After service in the Army and a job as a food production manager, John rose through the ranks at CSW, gaining experience as a Plant Manager and then as Vice President of Operations.
CSW moved from its original Eau Claire building to a new facility. Taking advantage of modern building materials and technologies, the new facility required only about 1/3 the electrical power.
CSW again went on an expansion run, finally rebuilding to full, pre-fire size in Madison, adding 1.5 million cu. ft. of freezer in Pleasant Prairie, and then another 3 million cu. ft. in Pleasant Prairie.
In a major move towards improved sustainability, CSW installed Wisconsin’s largest rooftop solar installation at the Madison facility, generating an amazing 741kW of peak electricity.
To support bio-science customer logistics, CSW launched an innovative new ultra-cold freezer in Pleasant Prairie, operating at -70F.
In recognition of 70 years of exemplary leadership as an employer and a corporate citizen, CSW won a Wisconsin Family Business of the Year Award. The judges found notable “the company’s dedication to employees, innovation, its active participation in the communities it serves, and its grit and determination to flourish in both good times and bad.”
CSW was officially founded in 1947, but has roots going back to WW1.
Check out significant events in company history on our timeline.
CSW Wall of Honor | Celebrating Our Retirees & Their Contribution to Our Success
As a service company, CSW’s people are the backbone of our success. The company provides excellent pay and benefits, as well as an empowering environment that fosters hard work and dedication, allowing us to put our family of capable and experienced employees to work on your behalf.
CSW and its charitable arm, the CJ Williams Foundation, are supporters of a wide variety of charitable activities in Madison, across the state of Wisconsin, and nationwide. CSW supports a myriad of community organizations like law enforcement and fire department charities, United Way, Feed My People Food Bank, and Second Harvest. CSW is a major supporter of the arts, from local art like Concerts on the Square, American Players Theater, and the Peninsula Players, to sponsorship of national programs like YoungArts.