Janice Bryans was eager to start a new career with the new, exciting company when an interviewer dampened her enthusiasm.
When he told her he was concerned she “didn’t fit what we’re looking for,” the Flowery Branch native replied, “Will you give me the chance?”
The rest is history, as Bryans and the company that hired her — Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, which later became Mars Wrigley — are both celebrating 50-year anniversaries this month.
“As a native, it’s been wonderful because (Wrigley) has brought so much to our economy in the county and the state,” Bryans said in an interview at a Nov. 4 ceremony at the plant at 4500 Atlanta Highway in Flowery Branch.
Plans for the chewing gum plant were announced by officials in October 1969 with comments from William Wrigley himself.
“The South has long been a most important market for our products, and the Wrigley company has been working for some time toward the goal of producing Wrigley’s gum in the South,” he said then.
Production began in December 1971 with about 100 people, according to a Mars Wrigley book commemorating the anniversary, “Gainesville Plant — 50 Years of Excellence.”
“The plant made only sugar gum on its two sheeting machines,” the book says. “There were three packaging areas.”
And there were only three flavors: Spearmint, Doublemint and Juicy Fruit.
The plant was dedicated in June 1972 in a ceremony attended by then-Gov. Lester Maddox, who told a gathering that more business would be generated as a result of the plant.
Growth would continue at the plant over the years, including expansions, adding hundreds of employees.
In 2008, Wrigley accepted a $23 billion buyout offer from privately held Mars Inc., with the plant becoming known as Mars Wrigley.
In 2019, Mars Wrigley announced a $60 million expansion of the plant — about 12 times more than the cost of the original plant.
Today, the company employs some 950 workers, who, according to the company, produce 75% of Wrigley’s gum volume for its North America market.
The company’s 50th anniversary in South Hall brought plenty of well wishes, including from Mars Wrigley’s North America president, Anton Vincent.
“We’re proud to recognize the contributions of our Mars Wrigley Gainesville manufacturing site, which has delivered 50 years of better moments and more smiles to the local community and consumers around the world with our iconic products,” he said in a press release.
Gov. Brian Kemp said the company “has helped Gainesville thrive by providing jobs and investing in the community. Because of their great contributions to our state, I am proud to celebrate this milestone with Mars Wrigley and hope to celebrate many more in the future.”
Plant director Matt Arends said, “We are grateful to Gainesville, Flowery Branch and the state of Georgia for the support and partnership over the last 50 years.”
And Kit Dunlap, president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said Mars Wrigley has “set many benchmarks in employee retention, longevity and placing great value on their people. Among employees, the word used so often is ‘family.’”
Bryans, who had an employee pavilion dedicated in her name at the Nov. 4 ceremony, recalled in her early days with the company somebody expressing doubts about the gum’s production.
“I looked at this gentleman and said, ‘Don’t second guess us. Just sit back and watch,’ ” she said.
Mars Wrigley’s history at its location at 4500 Atlanta Highway, Flowery Branch
Nov. 4, 2021: Company celebrates its 50th anniversary and dedicates a pavilion to 50-year employee Janice Bryans.
2019: Mars Wrigley announces a $60 million expansion of the plant — about 12 times more than the cost of the original plant.
2008: Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company accepts a $23 billion buyout offer from privately held Mars Inc., with the plant becoming known as Mars Wrigley.
June 1972: The plant is dedicated, with then-Gov. Lester Maddox attending the ceremony.
December 1971: Production begins
October 1969: Plans for the plant are announced.