End of an era:Stanback operations leaving town
Publication Salisbury Post
Date May 02, 2003
Section(s)
Page 0
Byline Rose Post
Brief End of an era:Stanback operations leaving town

By Rose Post, Salisbury Post

By Rose Post, Salisbury Post

Present owners of the Stanback Co. -- GlaxoSmithKline -- will move all Salisbury operations and equipment to Memphis, Tenn.

The Salisbury business, established by Thomas M. Stanback and his brother, Fred J. Stanback, in 1924, will cease operations here on June 27, and the equipment will be moved to the manufacturing facility in Memphis, according to George Kennon, local manager.

Approximately 36 people are employed at the local plant at 1500 S. Main St., where it has been located since 1932, when the business was moved from Spencer to Salisbury.

The company made famous the phrase, "Snap back with Stanback," for its Stanback Headache Powders. It also marketed Snap Back Stimulant Powders and Chap-et Lip Conditioners.

The Stanback Co. got its start in 1911 when Tom Stanback, a young pharmacist working in a Thomasville drug store, broke up with his girl and moved to Spencer as a relief pharmacist for the druggist at Rowan Drug Store, who wanted to go on vacation.

He gave samples of his new headache powders to railroad men who carried them up and down the Southern line -- and had found his formula for success.

Stanback remained a sideline with the young pharmacist, however, until 1924 when he persuaded his younger brother, Fred J. Stanback, to try his hand at selling the powders to retail stores in the area.

And Fred Stanback became the ingredient that made the product a national success.

Their partnership, called Stanback Medicine Co., was formed with an investment of $1,500 from each.

W.C. "Bill" Stanback, son of the late Dr. Tom Stanback, joined the firm in 1948, and soon the products had expanded into foreign markets.

Bill Stanback still owns the buildings on South Main Street. He was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

"It's a sad day for all of us," Kennon said this morning. He went to work for the company eight years ago, when Bill Stanback still owned it. His plans, he said, are still incomplete.

Bill Stanback sold the multi-million dollar headache powder plant to the Block Drug Co. of Jersey City, N.J., and Memphis, Tenn., in 1998.

Since then, Block Drug has merged with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, which is now the officials owner.

Spokesmen for the parent company could not be reached for comment this morning.

When Stanback sold the firm to Block in 1998, he admitted -- with a touch of humor -- that he had mixed emotions.

"Despite my intentions to the contrary," he told his employees, "I've come to realize I'm not going to live forever." And none of his three children, Anne, John and Mark, were affiliated with the corporation.

He had come to realize, he said, that the family-owned business needed to associate with a larger family of consumer products and the increased advertising and promotional backing of a larger corporation.

The Block firm already owned BC and Goody's, Stanback's two headache powder competitors. At that time, Stanback employed 56 people.

The company, considered the most familiar product "made in Salisbury" during the 20th century, had stopped keeping an accurate count of the number of headache powders it had manufactured.

On its 50th anniversary, the company noted it had sold more than 3 billion Stanback headache powers since Tom Stanback got his first mail order. At that time, it had sold more than 200 million tablets, since introducing that product in 1948.

Contact Rose Post at 704-797-4251 or rpost@salisburypost.com.