Racket Group

Racket group at 125!

September 19, 2016

Airline supplier, Racket Group, this year celebrates its 125th anniversary. Amazingly, throughout that time it has been owned and operated by one family – the Hoaglands, now in its sixth generation. Now a certified a woman-owned business, we took a look at its historic story.

In its earliest days, Racket was an outfitting post on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails. It then opened a storefront on Kansas City’s Main Street, outfitting wagons to supply travellers moving west on these historic routes.

Its very name harks back to its origins as when any such outfitter rode about town, its supply wagon would clang loudly from the pots and pans and other wares, and the outfitter would be generally known as “The Racket Man.”

Racket sold housewares including cutlery, bowls, crockery, buggy whips, and anything else needed for the home at that time. And by 1929, Racket had expanded its offerings to include “everything needed to start in the restaurant or hotel business.” The average day’s business was about $600 with annual income of more than $175,000.

In 1942, Racket moved its operation three blocks away to 713 Walnut, where its headquarters is still located today. The building had at one time been an annex to the old Railway Exchange Building and contained 25,000 square feet of space, perfect for warehousing as the company grew.

It was in the 1960s that Racket moved into the airline industry when they became the hometown supplier of Trans World Airlines and by 1980, Racket provided glassware, cups, salt and pepper shakers, plastic dinnerware, blankets – anything as passenger might use on a flight – to eight domestic and two international airlines.

In 1980 Racket sold the airlines two million salt and pepper shakers, becoming the world’s largest manufacturer of those items on a contract basis; the same year it sold off its retail stores to focus exclusively on the travel industry.

Today, Racket has added locations in Brussels and Hong Kong, to its 713 Walnut office in Kansas City, Missouri (where it has been headquartered for the last 74 years). Under the leadership of current President Anne Hoagland Bauer (6th Generation), Racket is now a certified WBE (Women-Owned Business Enterprise) and continues to supply the airline industry for traveler’s needs, just as “The Racket Man” did 125 years ago.