Jay, left, and Lorri Garnhart own Cream City Scale in Madison, and their son Ryan is a sales rep for the company, which has done business in Wisconsin since 1921. The test vehicle at right is used to calibrate scales with a capacity of up to 100 tons.

"Everything in the world needs to be weighed," says Jay Garnhart. "And we produce scales to weigh anything, from the smallest item up to several tons."

Garnhart knows scales. From those used weigh bulk items in stores to the massive in-ground scales used to weigh equipment and grains, he worked for Cream City Scale servicing scales for 25 years prior to buying the company.

The business originated in Milwaukee in 1921 and was owned by the Beautaw family. Kenneth Beautaw was the fourth and last generation to own the company. Beautaw sold the business to John Dentser and Jud Higgins in 1995. The Milwaukee location closed in 1998 when industry there went flat. The Madison location opened in 1992, and a Loves Park, Ill., shop opened in 1977. Garnhart worked for 15 years in Loves Park, then moved to Madison to work another 10 years in service before buying the business in 1998.

Garnhart's wife, Lorri, performs the human resources and payroll functions at Cream City Scale. "I also oversee the International Organization for Standardization guidelines, as we are audited each year," she explains.

Cream City Scale has a staff of 21 between its two locations and focuses on the calibration, repair, sales and installation of new equipment for agricultural, food service, laboratory and industrial uses. Garnhart says about 85 percent of the scales sold at his business are made in Wisconsin, at Rice Lake Weighing Systems. Cream City Scales had sales of $4 million in 2011.

Customers meet with a sales rep to discuss their weighing needs. Often a scale has to be custom-built, which can be done at either Cream City location or on site, depending on the size of the scale. "We can make a scale for how a customer does their everyday business," says Garnhart.

State-licensed and factory-trained service technicians, including one who has 35 years' experience, make repairs on-site or in the Cream City shop. 

The Garnharts have a succession plan in place with their son Ryan, who is a sales rep in the Madison office. He had worked in service for years during the summer while in school at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

The Longevity in Business feature appears on the third Tuesday of each month. The column features businesses that have celebrated at least 50 years in business. To suggest a business to feature, please contact Jill Carlson at with the name of the business, business owner and contact information.

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