A milestone often brings about reflection for companies, just as with people: A chance to think about how the company came to be, where it has overcome adversity and where it is headed before reaching the next marker. Companies celebrating milestones in 2015 include some strong pillars in the stonework that makes up the greater Kansas City business community.
Taken in their entirety, a pattern emerges from each company history: a pioneer, a person with a dream, sets out to take a risk and labors for his or her passion. They travel through territory of growth and loss, and as those cycles ebb and flow, the ones that make it through continue to evolve and build on their strengths. They focus on practical practices that work, and throw out the ideas that fail.
For the oldest businesses, updates and new technology have transformed the organization’s processes while others have pushed for new innovation in new frontiers. This year in particular, we see the education and construction sectors’ rich histories in Kansas City. In others, family business comes into play with fourth, even fifth generations at the helm. There is no doubt, though, that the main ingredient running through each business is good old-fashioned hard work.
160 years (founded 1855)
Davis Funeral Chapel
Established in 1855, Davis Funeral Chapel is older than the state of Kansas itself. The chapel is in its sixth generation of serving the Leavenworth area and is the 74th-oldest business in the United States. The current director, Davis Moulden, began working in the chapel at age 16; today he runs the business with his wife, Debbie, and their daughter, Hope Hundley. Clarence and Margaret Moulden,
Davis’ parents, won contracts with the federal prison in Leavenworth and the state prison in Lansing to bury the prisoners.
The business has seen a few famous customers, in the 1950s, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and George “Bugs” Moran. In 1965, Davis witnessed the execution of Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, the pair who murdered the Clutter family of Holcomb in 1959.
Davis said that the secret to staying in business is being honest with people and always telling the truth. Today, the chapel no longer bids on prison contracts, and Davis said he’s seen lots of changes in the industry over time.
“You have to re-invent yourself if you’re going to stay in business, and people have to trust you.” he said.
155 years (founded 1860)
YMCA of Greater Kansas City
The Rev. William Leftwich founded the local branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association in 1860, when Kansas City was known only as the Town of Kansas. His mission at the time provided affordable lodging and Christian fellowship to young men on the frontier. The original location came about in 1887 when President Grover Cleveland laid the cornerstone at Ninth and Locust. The Y hosted the first University of Kansas varsity basketball game against a Kansas City YMCA team, in which KU lost to the Y 16-5. It wasn’t until 1909 that the Downtown Y opened at 10th and Oak.
In 1910, Joyce Hall sold cards from a shoebox he kept under his bed there, and Walt Disney resided there for a time. Andrew “Rube” Foster organized the Negro Baseball League at the former Paseo YMCA.
“I’m so grateful to celebrate 155 years of continuous service to the Kansas City community,” said David Byrd, president and CEO of Kansas City Y. “I feel so fortunate and blessed to serve with such a committed team of volunteers and staff. Our dedication to youth development, healthy living and social responsibility is our foundation as we continue to thrive.”
150 years (founded 1865)
Francis Reid Long started the Kansas City Savings Association with $10,000 capital. In 1881 William Woods acquired the Savings Association and reorganized it into the National Bank of Commerce. The bank held the title of the largest bank west of Chicago in 1890.
In 1928, the bank began the first 24-hour transit department in the country. This helped speed up the processing of checks between banks. The 1960s saw the first full-scale international department and in 1984, Special Connections was introduced as the first card in the market to have the combined features of a credit card and ATM card.
Today, Commerce Bank ranks in the top 10 Banks in the U.S. on Forbes’ list of best-managed banks. “We’re honored that Commerce continues to receive such recognition, 150 years after our first charter, and it best reflects our focus on performance in these key areas:
service to our customers; a solid return to our shareholders; the sincere appreciation for colleagues who make us strong; a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation. When the time comes to tally our success, it won’t be the years lasted; it will be how we supported these values and carried them into the future,” said Jonathan Kemper, Chairman and CEO of Commerce Bank, Kansas City.
University of Kansas
With the help of former Gov. Amos Adams Lawrence and other prominent figures, the university was initially funded by a $15,000 endowment on a 40-acre allotment of land from Charles and Sara Robinson.
Several issues, including debates over slavery, the location of the university, and financial issues, complicated the establishment of the university. It was one of the earliest public institutions of higher learning to admit women and men equally in the U.S.
In 1898, the men’s basketball program began, following the arrival of James Naismith, just six years after Naismith had invented the sport. Naismith was not initially hired to coach basketball, but rather as a chapel director and physical education instructor. Naismith was, ironically, the only coach in the program’s history to have a losing record (55-60).
“The history of the University of Kansas is tied directly to the history of the state it serves. Kansas’ founders understood the value of public higher education and the contributions universities make to the success of individuals and the prosperity of our society,” Bernadette Gray-Little, chancellor of the University of Kansas said.
Members of the Congregational Church founded Washburn University on the principle that all people—regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or family income—have the right to earn an education. The name comes from Ichabod Washburn of Worchester, Mass., who donated $25,000 because the college was supporting two causes he believed in—educating women and educating African-Americans.
When the Congregational Church diminished support in the 1920s, the city of Topeka proposed to make it a municipal university. At the end of 1941, the campus was transformed into a Navy officers’ facility, and the end of WWII the GI Bill caused enrollment to soar.
In 1966, an F-5 tornado damaged most campus buildings and left 16 Topekans dead and injured 500. Classes continued at area churches and Topeka West High School.
Non Nobis Solum, Washburn’s motto, speaks directly to the university’s founding principles. It means “Not for ourselves alone.” Charlotte Leaitt, professor of English, suggested the motto in the early 1900s.
The Rev. Jotham Meeker and his wife, Eleanor, labored to improve the lives of the Ottawa Indians, serving as ministers, nurse and doctor, business agents, marriage counselors, teachers, and as spiritual counselors in the mid-1800s. The school was originally developed for children of the tribe between ages 6 and 18. The tribe provided the land in exchange for education.
In 2008, President Kevin Eichner signed a new agreement with Chief John Ballard of the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma. It allows for any certified tribal member to attend the residential college in Ottawa free of tuition, board, and room charges, or to attend any of the university’s adult on-ground or online programs tuition-free.
“It is a privilege to be leading our institution at the opening of our 150th year of service to students, guiding them, as we always have, to lifetimes of significance in education, arts, science, and business,” Eihner said.
145 years (founded 1870)
Rau Construction started in Germany in 1870 and came to Kansas City with Gustave Frederic Rau Jr. in 1905. It is considered one of the oldest firms in Kansas City.
Prior to World War II, a large number of their projects were breweries, packing plants and boiler works. Today, the company’s focus has narrowed to commercial office and retail, education, churches, medical facilities and more.
The executive team currently shares 90 years of construction experience. Gus Rau Meyer and Dan Rau Meyer are the fifth generation to be involved in the company.
Gus serves as President and Dan services as Senior Vice President. They believe that personal involvement on the part of their owners and projects managers is essential to the success of the project and customer satisfaction. The company has successfully completed over 3 million square feet of new construction in the KC metro in the last 10 years.
Seaman Schuske Metal Works
The oldest sheet metal shop west of the Mississippi, the business was started in 1870 by Charles Seaman as a hardware/tinning shop. It was passed down through his family for five generations until it was sold in 1987 to Midland Steel. Frank Schuske was a partner from 1892 to 1923 when he sold his interest out to William Seaman.
In 1997 Rick Gilmore bought the firm and in 2014 four long time employees, Randy Clinton, Craig Hoppe, Chris Gilmore and Brian Neal, purchased the firm from Gilmore.
The original location was on the 1600 block of Frederick Avenue in St. Joseph in 1938 but the firm has since moved to the current location at 1215 South 4th Street.
Today, Vice President Chris Gilmore said having quality trained and knowledgeable employees is the key. “We will continue to change with the times and provide our customers with quality products and on the delivery schedule promised.”
Temple Congregation B’nai Jehudah
One of the oldest Reform Jewish Congregations in the nation and the oldest synagogue in the Kansas City metro, the Temple Congregation B’nai Jehudah was founded by a small group of pioneer families. It has historically had the largest number of members among local Jewish congregations.
In the latter part of the 19th century, B’nai Jehudah became a founding member of the Union for Reform Judaism, which now numbers more than 1,300 congregations in the United States and Canada.
The original home for the congregation was at Sixth and Wyandotte, with seating for 300 people in 1875. It moved twice before building a new home in 2000 in Overland Park.
Eddie Jacobson, a member of the congregation and close friend of President Truman’s, played an important role in the U.S. recognition of the state of Israel. Jacobson served as a liaison between Truman and Jewish leaders. Jacobson and Truman fought in WWI together and became partners in the early 1920s when they opened a clothing store.
140 years (founded 1875)
John McAfee founded the school, originally called Park College, on land donated by George Park. In its early years, students received free tuition and board in exchange for working half a day on the college’s farm, or in the electrical shop or printing plant. There were 17 students in the first school year and five women in the graduating class.
The defining landmark of the campus is Mackay Hall, named after Carroll County, Illinois banker Duncan Mackay who donated $25,000 in materials for the structure shortly before his death. Today the building is the main focal point of the campus and dominates the hillside, overlooking the town of Parkville.
The college has had a relationship with the military since 1889. That link was greatly expanded in the late 1960s with the establishment of a Military Degree Completion Program. Park’s total enrollment has grown from its small base since 1996, when it first began offering online courses. In 2000, it was renamed Park University.
135 years (founded 1880)
Clarkson Construction Company
A true family business, Clarkson Construction is currently in its sixth generation. Founder G.G. George Clarkson, got his start as a grading contractor. Edwin and Ferd Clarkson built some of Kansas City’s main arteries and excavated basements for the city’s nationally famous residential areas between 1910 and 1930. And from 1930 to 1955, under Ed Clarkson, it expanded into construction of highways, dams, air bases and flood-control projects.
Today the company performs site grading, earth and rock excavation, underground utility work, concrete paving, bridge construction and earthen dams. Large jobs in the Kansas City area like Crown Center Complex in 1972, the Paseo Bridge project in 1984 and Village West at Kansas Speedway in 2001 are some of their better-known projects.
The Kansas City Star
Originally called The Kansas City Evening Star, founded by William Rockhill Nelson and Samuel E. Morss. They moved to Missouri after selling a newspaper owned by Nelson’s father in Indiana, Fort Wayne News Sentinel. Within 18 months Morss quit because of illness.
Three competitor newspapers were published in those days, The Evening Mail, The Kansas City Times and The Kansas City Journal. Nelson purchased one, The Mail, and its Associated Press evening franchise in 1882. The paper was named The Kansas City Star in 1885. In 1890, Nelson started The Weekly Kansas City Star and The Sunday Kansas City Star in 1894. He also purchased The Times.
President Harry Truman worked for The Star for two weeks in 1902 in the mailroom, and Ernest Hemingway worked as a reporter from October 1917 to April 1918.
Schutte Lumber Company
Founded by S.Z. Schutte in 1880, Schutte Lumber remained a family-owned operation and managed trust until 1997, when it was purchased by Daniel C. Fuhrman. On July 1, 2014, Michael D. Fuhrman purchased the business to continue Schutte’s family-owned tradition.
The company has deep roots in Kansas City; the lumberyard started in 1880 at 16th and McGee, and S.Z. Schutte lived in the second story of that building. That’s where his children were born and his first wife died. The lumber yard later moved to 25th and Grand, then to its current location on Southwest Boulevard.
Victor Schutte took over as president until his death in 1951, when his wife, Caroline became president. She established a scholarship for women at what’s now the Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
The lumber company is known for a diverse inventory and its 13-acre lumberyard on Southwest Boulevard.
Topeka Chamber of Commerce
The first civic business organization in Topeka was the Board of Trade, which assumed the task of putting Topeka “on the map.” Col. Cyrus K. Holliday, father of the Santa Fe Railroad and then president of the Excelsior Coke and Gas Co., which supplied the city with its street lights and the residences that could afford gas, served as president. J.G. Slonecker, who served as secretary, was a rising young lawyer whose civic pride was well known, but whose acumen as a source of conservation ideas was worth much in the selection of the kind of capital and industries Topeka most needed.
Through the 20th century, the Topeka Chamber of Commerce continued to work to improve the business climate in the city and across Shawnee County, and today has about 1,000 member companies. The chamber’s office moved twice before settling in at 120 S.E. Sixth Ave. in 1987.
125 years (founded 1890)
Lehr Construction Company
J.W. Lehr founded Lehr Construction and served as president of the corporation until 1928. It was during this time, in the early 20th century, that a wave of home construction and the industrial base for St. Joseph’s next 50 years began.
In 1928, Arthur L. Lehr became president, and he directed the company through the Great Depression, World War II and a huge industrial boom, including packing plants, grain mills, manufacturing and St. Joseph’s Goetz Brewery.
J. Wesley Lehr joined the firm in 1935 and served as president from 1944 until his retirement in 1975. The ’50’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s saw more expansion of local companies, hospitals, and new manufacturing.
In 1975, Jon J. Lehr was appointed as president of the corporation and still holds that position. The ’80’s and ’90’s he oversaw an expansion of animal health and pharmaceutical research and production, as well as facilities for meat processing and manufacturing.
Musselman & Hall Contractors
George K. Musselman founded the construction company in the early 1890s. In the early 1900s, John Nicholas Hall joined Musselman and in 1914, the two formed a partnership and named the company Musselman & Hall Contractors.
M&H thrived during the World War II years, working at various defense installations including the Pratt and Whitney plant in Kansas City, Kan., and the Lake City Army Ammunition plant east of Independence.
As World War II ended, the company began to hire from the throngs of returning veterans and continued branching out into street work and all kinds of industrial and governmental concrete, asphalt and railroad work.
Today, Doug Hall leads the company, he began working for the company at 13 and took the lead in 1978. He says he was all work the year after his father died. “After that first year alone, I began replacing myself, in every job I was doing with someone better,” Hall said.
120 years (founded 1895)
Kansas City Life Insurance Company
Originally chartered as Bankers Life Association on May 1, 1895, the company was founded by Maj. William Warner, who served as its president, with J.H. North as vice president and S.E. Rumble as secretary. Rumble conceived the idea of forming a life insurance company in the “heart of America.”
At the time, Kansas City was known as the Athens of the West and was the second-largest city in the western half of the United States; only San Francisco was larger.The Kansas City Life Insurance Company name was adopted in 1900. The company began issuing policies in small amounts from an office in the Scheidley Building at Ninth and Main Streets in Kansas City.
In 1939, Walter E. Bixby became the president of the company, the first of four generations of Bixby family members to hold that position. In 1950, the company introduced the Presidents Club, a sales-recognition program that lives on today.
115 years (founded 1900)
Toblers Flowers, Inc.
Toblers has remained a family owned florist for over 100 years. It currently resides at its 2010 E. 19th Street location, which it has called home since 1974. Owner Brian Auckland purchased the company from the Tobler family in 2009.
Auckland said that they were very fortunate to have roots in Kansas City where people are among the most down to earth and loyal. “Our customers want to be treated, as we would like to be treated so we open the doors every morning with this in mind,” he said.
Today, the florist is using new technology, which includes an app to better connect with customers and provide product options. Auckland said many people have less time to make it to the florist anymore and the company has added a four hour or less rush delivery option, to better accommodate clients.
110 years (founded 1905)
Westlake Ace Hardware
Westlake Hardware is a chain of 85 neighborhood hardware stores, based in Lenexa. The company began in 1905 in Huntsville, Mo., when W.I. Westlake bought part ownership in a hardware store there. Three years later, he became sole proprietor and Westlake Hardware was born. The company first expanded by opening new stores in Missouri and then, in the 1970s, opened stores in Kansas and other states. Westlake joined the Ace Hardware distribution network in 1959 and became the largest Ace dealer in America, providing customers with access to more than 70,000 items. Its business model relied on competitive pricing from the organization’s immense buying power.
In 2006, the private equity firm, Goldner Hawn Johnson and Morrison, purchased the family-owned Westlake Hardware chain. In late 2012, Ace Hardware Corp. acquired Westlake Hardware. Westlake currently operates as a wholly owned, independent subsidiary of Ace Hardware, and it has stores throughout Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.
105 years (founded 1910)
Driven by the postcard craze of 1903, Joyce Hall decided to venture from retail of various products to the wholesale of postcards. As time went on, he became more convinced that greeting cards would become more prominent than postcards. Greeting cards, according to Joyce Hall, represented class, promised discretion and they were more than a form of communication—they were a social custom.
By 1915, the company was known as Hall Brothers and sold Valentine’s Day and Christmas cards. In 1917, Hall and his brother Rollie “invented” modern wrapping paper when they ran out of traditional colored tissue paper. In 1922, the company expanded throughout the country. The staff grew from four to 120 people, and the line increased from holiday cards to include everyday greeting cards.
In 1928, the firm adopted the name “Hallmark,’ after the hallmark symbol used by goldsmiths in London in the 14th century, and began printing the name on the back of every card. Today Hallmark Cards is run by grandsons Don Hall, Jr. and David Hall.
100 years (founded 1915)
Black & Veatch
Black & Veatch started in 1915 as a two-man partnership between former University of Kansas classmates Ernest Black and Nathan Veatch, and soon had 12 employees with offices in Kansas City. It landed two large contracts, one in power and one in water, in its first year. The company’s strong ties with government work began in 1917, as the U.S. War Department asked Black & Veatch to supervise construction of military training camps during World War I.
In 1928, Black & Veatch designed and constructed 250 miles of roadways for Jackson County. During that time, Veatch formed a strong friendship with Harry S. Truman, a tie that lasted through Truman’s presidency.
Black & Veatch currently has a global work force of more than 9,000 employees in 100 offices, with projects completed in more than 100 countries on six continents.
Morris Helzberg opened his first store in 1915. In the 1930s the company became known for developing the Certified Perfect Diamonds Program—diamonds the jewelry industry labeled as perfect under 10-power magnification.
Helzberg opened the three-story Helzberg’s House of Treasures on The Country Club Plaza in 1948, and the store featured fine china and silver in addition to jewelry. By the ’60s the company had grown to 15 stores in six markets with a mail order division.
The trademarked “I Am Loved” button was introduced in dedication to the wedding of the current owners, Shirley and Barnett Helzberg, Jr. The ’70s brought about aggressive expansion opening on average three new mall stores per year. In 1995, Warren Buffett purchased the business, and in 1996 the company launched Helzburg.com. Today, there are more 230 stores. Helzberg became the first nationwide jeweler to qualify for membership in the American Gem Society.
Metropolitan Community College
Metropolitan Community College began as the Kansas City Polytechnic Institute and was established by the Kansas City Board of Education as the first public institution of higher education in Kansas City. Classes began on Sept. 7, 1915 with 200 students. The institute used a building at 11th & Locust, which had previously been the old Central High School.
From 1915 until 1964, the Kansas City Board of Education was the governing body of the college. In 1964, seven suburban school districts—Belton, Center, Grandview, Hickman Mills, Lee’s Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown—joined forces with the Kansas City School District to create the Metropolitan Community College District.
“MCC works because it is a vibrant and ever-changing system that pushes to create a better community through post-secondary education,” said Chancellor Mark James said. “MCC will continue to lead the charge on educational innovation and look for opportunities to connect our students with area businesses and universities.”
Missouri Western State University
Missouri Western was founded in 1915 as a two-year institution called St. Joseph Junior College, holding courses in the original location of Central High School in St. Joseph, Mo., at 13th and Patee.
The establishment of a four-year school was a central campaign issue in the 1964 Missouri governor’s race, when Warren Hearnes, from southeast Missouri, was challenging Hilary Bush, who hailed from Kansas City area. Hearnes, who promised to transform the school into a four-year school, narrowly won the primary against Bush, then won the general election. The college became a four-year institution in 1969 during Hearnes’ second term.
“From our founding in 1915 as the St. Joseph Junior College, to our evolution to a thriving University, our commitment to providing a high quality, affordable education to students in our region has never wavered,” said Robert Vartabedian, president.
95 years (founded 1920)
Stan Durwood saw the one-screen movie theater as limiting. He noticed that people wanted more choices, so he began remodeling large single-screen theaters in Kansas City into smaller buildings with multiple auditoriums. The result was greatly successful, and the first multiplex theater in the world was born. The theater served as a blueprint for the industry and by 1968, his theater chain had
expanded nationwide into American Multi-Cinema, Inc. or AMC.
Today, AMC Entertainment is known for its tilt-up arm rests, cupholders and dine-in theaters. In 2012, the Beijing-based Wanda Group acquired the company.
“For 95 years, AMC Theatres has kept its focus on innovation that provides industry leading guest experiences,” said Gerry Lopez, president and CEO. “Our founder, Stan Durwood, brought the multiplex and megaplex to American movie-goers, each time creating new standards in movie-going.”
75 years (founded 1940)
CommunityAmerica Credit Union
Founded by TWA pilot George Duvall in 1940, the credit union was established to help TWA employees and their families. The first loans were made to employees for $5 until payday, with five cents charged for interest. By the end of the first year, the credit union had grown to have more than $20,000 in assets and 644 members.
In 1992, the name changed from TWA Credit Union to Members America Credit Union. In 1998, it joined forces withCommunityAmerica Credit Union, and in 2007 merged with Midwest United Credit Union.
Today, there are 32 branches in the Kansas City, St. Louis and Topeka areas. The company’s philosophy, “people helping people,” extends into a financial literacy program with Junior Achievement of Middle America as well as offering employees 12 hours of paid time each year to volunteer with a non-profit of their choice.
Sisters Kathryn and Nellie Winstead opened Winstead’s locally in 1940. Originally from Smithton, Mo., near Sedalia, they were hesitant to open the location east of the Country Club Plaza during the Tom Pendergast era. They struggled to stay afloat during World War II because of beef rationing, however, ended up successful near the end of the war. That success helped them expand to Lee’s Summit, where Johnny Ray’s Drive-In is now located.
In 1952, Kathryn retired and sold her interest in the business to Nellie and her husband Gordon Montgomery. Two years, later they sold to Morris and Victor Lerner, brothers who owned King Louie International, a Kansas City-based corporation that ran bowling alleys and manufactured bowling attire.
Today, local restaurateur Nabil Haddad, a franchisee and a McDonald’s stockholder, oversees nine Winstead’s locations in the greater Kansas City area.
70 years (founded 1945)
Peterson Manufacturing got it’s start in 1945 when Wilbur “Pete” set up shop in downtown Kansas City manufacturing taillights for the automotive aftermarket. In 1956 Don Armacost Sr., bought the business and soon made industry news with its Vibar socket.
The new industry standards for safety lighting in vehicles in 1968 made for rapid growth for the company. Two years later they relocated to their current home in Grandview.
Today, the company is housed in a 670,000 square-foot facility. The business includes engineering and design, photometric and environmental testing, tool and die production, harness and wire manufacturing, plastic injection molding, final assembly, warehousing, sales and customer service.
Peterson President and CEO, Don Armacost, Jr., whose father bought the business in 1956, credits the company’s success to its long history of square dealing with customers, suppliers and employees. “That tradition has brought us a long way,” he said. “We’re not about to change it.”
65 years (founded 1950)
Shafer, Kline & Warren, Inc.
While the present corporate structure of this Lenexa-based engineering and consulting firm came together in 1950, it can trace its roots to 1885, hence the claim to being among the nation’s oldest continuously operating engineering and surveying firms in the nation.
SKW is a full-service firm that specializes in development, energy, infrastructure and pipeline-related projects drawing on its expertise in civil, electrical, mechanical and structural engineering. Development work encompasses commercial, public-sector, health care, industrial, office and multifamily projects, while its infrastructure work covers roads, bridges and water-handling and treatment systems.
Its projects locally include Staley High School, the Shawnee Justice Center, Mission Farms condominiums and Saint Luke’s East Medical Center in Lee’s Summit.
60 years (founded 1955)
Henry Bloch was a young Army Air Force navigator who wanted to get home and start a family business with his brothers in Kansas City; during World War II, he and his brothers exchanged letters discussing their ideas. Bloch attended Harvard Business School and while reading a transcript of a speech by professor Sumner Schlicter, he learned that small business didn’t have the resources to meet their needs. He and his brothers saw the opportunity to aid small business.
In 1946, Henry and Leon founded the United Business Co., starting the business with a $5,000 loan. The company at the time offered bookkeeping and other services to small businesses, without much success. Things didn’t pick up much until a client, John White, an ad salesman for The Kansas City Star, suggested they place an ad for preparing income taxes at $5 apiece in late January 1955. The response they got was overwhelming and the rest is history.
Today, there are 12,000 company-owned and franchise locations in all 50 states. An H&R Block branded retail office is now within five miles of most Americans.
55 years (founded 1960)
Bob Jones Shoes
Young Bob Jones opened his Bob Jones Outlet at 19th Street and Grand in 1960, offering a wide variety of clothing, shoes, jewelry and household items. Jones was known for doing magic tricks for his younger customers and would announce specials or conversations over the public address system to have fun. As the business grew, Ernie Horowitz joined as a partner and was in charge of the shoe department.
The shoe department began to take off and Ernie took over the merchandising when he bought out Bob’s half in 1976. The business became a destination for customers to find shoes they couldn’t find anywhere else. Ernie, who died in 2011, was known for his love of customers and being a likeable boss. The store is still a retail anchor for that block today, and Ernie’s son, Rocky Horowitz, and his son-in-law, Harry Bosley, are at the helm of the business.
50 years (founded 1965)
John Hermes threw in the towel as a traveling salesman in 1965. A father of six at the age of 33 he started his own landscaping business. The company started as Country Fair Lawns, and its first customer was the Glenwood Manor Hotel, followed by small city government contracts and lawn care for homeowners.
It’s a true family business, and John’s brother Jody, all of his six children, cousins, uncles and aunts played a part in the company over the years. In the ’70s the business took off with contracts for several shopping malls across the metro area.
Today, Dalton, John’s eldest son, runs the company. Under his leadership and love of “to-do” lists, the company was reorganized. He expanded the facilities to farmland, grew the fleet of trucks and was one of the first in the country to utilize the H2B guest worker program.
Liberty Fruit Company, Inc.
How does a wholesale produce company thrive for half a century? By living its motto to take better care of its customers than any competitor. Liberty Fruit Company started operations in 1965 under Issie and Mary Caviar, who were selling straight from the bed of their pickup truck. Today, it’s in the hands of Arnold Caviar, their oldest son, who started there full-time in 1971 and has built it into a specialty company serving the retail grocery trade, wholesale and food-service customers.
Operating from a 170,000-square-foot facility in Kansas City, Kan., Liberty Fruit now boasts a third generation of Caviars within its employee and management ranks, and makes deliveries with a fleet of more than 60 GPS-monitored trucks and tractor trailers serving Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Iowa, Arkansas, Illinois and Texas.
Terracon is a 100 percent employee-owned consulting engineering firm that provides services for thousands of environmental site assessment and geotechnical evaluation projects each year. Over its history, it has expanded through both internal growth and acquisitions. Terracon currently has more than 3,500 employees in 140 offices and 40 states nationwide. Additionally, it partners with U.S. clients to serve their international needs.
“Our talented and dedicated employee-owners are the most important part of our ability to continually grow our services, our size and our geographic footprint,” said Gayle Packer, executive vice president. “We also have fantastic clients who have trusted us with their business for many years. For all of us, our anniversary is about looking forward to the next 50 years.” The firm’s success was further evidenced by a No. 35 ranking in Engineering News-Record’s 2014 list of the Top 500 Design Firms, up from No. 58 in just a decade.
So there it is. Ingram’s 2015 edition of Milestones—Corporate Anniversaries. The research to conduct this effort is, frankly, mind boggling, and Ingram’s editorial team has done its best to deliver. Surely there are companies celebrating an anniversary this year that we’ve missed. For that we apologize. We’re hopeful you’ll let us know by emailing Editorial@Ingrams.com, calling us at 816.842.9994, and most importantly, registering your firm on www.Ingrams.com. While you’re at it, include your complimentary company profile.
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