Inside KC’s Springbok Puzzles, where everything fits together nicely
Steven Pack was born and raised in Kansas City. He joined his father’s business here, and he raised his family here.
So when the opportunity arose for his East Side manufacturing company, Allied Materials & Equipment Co., to acquire the beloved Springbok Puzzles from local pillar Hallmark Cards, you’d think perhaps his motivation was some sort of civic pride.
“Maybe it could be described as laziness,” he said, laughing.
Hardly. Sloth doesn’t appear to be among Pack’s vices. Current and former employees say at 74 years old he’s often the guy who is flying across the country at the last minute, locking the doors at night and working on Sundays.
Nonetheless, it’s fascinating to hear the president of Allied describe how he converted his father’s shuttered military parts plant into the home of the oldest brand of puzzles continually made in America. But the tale came with a warning:
“My wife will tell you I tell long stories,” he said.
(So, yes, long but fascinating.)
Thus, a story about puzzles begins with something of a riddle: What do military rifle stocks, American flags and jigsaw puzzles have in common?
Nothing, except they’re all made by one company just east of downtown Kansas City.
A United Nations of flag stitchers takes a break for a Christmas party
The circle clock on the factory wall ticked to noon. In English, a language that many workers barely understand, a voice on the public address system issued an invitation.
“Would everyone please join us in the Christmas party room?”
The employees inside Allied Materials & Equipment, a low-slung brick building at Kansas and Truman roads on the east side of town, stopped what the owners here have for more than a decade considered a rather important and honorable job:
They make American flags, among other products. And perhaps most important, they have the contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs to stitch together the thousands upon thousands of interment flags that each year are draped across caskets at the burials of America’s military vets. The same flags are then folded into tight triangles and presented to loved ones.