Ogallala Bay Rum

OGALLALA, Neb.- Small family businesses are important to the fabric of rural Nebraska.

There's a business like that in Ogallala that is achieving great success producing bay rum cologne and aftershave products.

We visited John Marquis with the Genuine Ogallala Bay Rum Toiletry Company to learn more about his business. He says the bay rum fragrance was probably made famous by pirates in the 1600's, by steeping bay leaves in rum. In the American west, barbershops mixed bay oil with various substances to create their own special blend of bay rum. "I'm sure barbershops here in Ogallala did that 150 years ago, and so when I started making bay rum, I decided to name it Ogallala bay rum," Marquis said.

"I've always liked the scent of bay rum since I was a kid," Marquis said. "I got one for Christmas one year that was supposed to be a good one and I took a whiff of it in 2005 and thought I could make a better bay rum than that." So, Marquis began tinkering in his basement and after about 130 versions, he came up with what is now the Ogallala Bay Rum cologne. Marquis says the product line has now expanded to aftershaves, air fresheners, and even shaving soaps.

Marquis says his wife helps with the business, he has a permanent part-time worker, some part-time workers as needed, and even his grandson pitches in once in a while to make this family business a success.