Floyd Paxton’s inventing gene came from his father, who designed a nail gun specifically to seal wooden boxes to ship. He did business with Washington’s apple farmers back when they used packing crates to dispatch fruit from our local orchards to grocers across the country.
By the 1950s, Floyd and his dad saw the future coming for them, says Floyd’s granddaughter, Stephanie Paxton-Jackson. “Farmers were going to the plastic bag to make things lighter.” Floyd’s solution would carve out, then dominate, a new industry. It also has an origin story worthy of Don Draper. On a flight home from Washington to California, Floyd was unable to finish his complimentary bag of nuts—back when airlines still served nuts in flight. You could bring knives onboard during those days, too. According to family lore, Floyd found an old credit card in his wallet and used a small penknife to whittle a notch with the slenderest of gaps, just big enough to thread the neck of a plastic bag through it.
Technically this creation is known as the Kwik Lok, also the name of the company Floyd founded. Colloquially, it’s the bread clip. Today, most of us encounter it keeping supermarket loaves fresh inside their plastic wrappers.
Kwik Lok is still based in Yakima but basically owns the worldwide bread clip market. The company makes closures that fasten bags of toys in Europe, milk in Canada, tamper-
proof bread loaves in South Africa, and endless quantities of pastries and produce in nearly 100 different countries.
Stephanie Paxton-Jackson never pictured herself running a global bread clip empire. But in 2015, she and her sisters, Melissa Steiner and Kimberly Paxton-Hagner, inherited the business unexpectedly when their father passed away. At the time the trio knew little about the closure industry. “But what we knew right from our gut,” Paxton-Hagner recalls, “is that we make plastic, and we want to leave this world better than when we first touched it.”
The traditional clip’s tiny size makes it difficult to recycle. Since the sisters took over, Kwik Lok’s developed a greener version, dubbed the Eco-Lok, that uses polymerized starch to reduce plastics and greenhouse gas emissions.
Northwest clients like Franz Bakery have embraced the Eco-Lok; meanwhile customers in other countries can buy a version made of cellulose fiber, which is compostable in parts of Europe. CEO Don Carrell says the company is busy testing other sustainable materials. “By 2025, it’s possible we may not even be in plastics.”
The Kwik Lok’s design hasn’t changed since Floyd’s first midair whittling. But his granddaughters have radically transformed its context. And those inventing genes carry on.