CHAPTER XXV:
Berkey & Gay Furniture Co.

Berkey & Gay Furniture Co.

NOT ALWAYS DOES SUCCESS crown the labors of the industrious, or prosperity attend the struggles of sobriety and integrity. In dangerous emulation of the rapid career of certain individuals who have risen to a sudden and spurious eminence, the passion to be rich in haste has driven many impatient business men through the intricate paths of tortuous and crooked speculation.

ATTRACTIVE AS ARE THE DAZZLING, though temporary, results of all such unstable and abortive schemes, a safer road to affluence and honor lies through the more tedious and toilsome walks of patient industry and economy.

THE VEGETABLE AND MINERAL RESOURCES of Michigan, as of other States, are presented freely to every man who chooses to avail himself of these treasures; and every aspirant for the honor and wealth resulting from well directed manufacture may reap a rich reward.

BUT DURING MANY YEARS sober application to business, within the limits of available capital, has been too frequently supplanted by crude and ill-considered projects, based wholly on chance and the uncertainties of the future.

ESPECIALLY NOTICEABLE has been this condition of affairs when new regions have been first occupied, and when the almost boundless profusion of natural wealth spread a most tempting attraction before the eyes of the incautious.

NOT UNIVERSALLY, however, was this spirit of unhealthy speculation exhibited; and not without gratification, and perhaps surprise, can Mr. Julius Berkey recall the retired and unobtrusive character of his earliest efforts as a manufacturer, or the limited range of his operations. The narrow accomodation then at his command is now only a recollection; but some models of his earliest work are still employed, and well maintain their place, even among the most improved manufacture of to-day. Limiting his efforts to the means actually at his command, yet slowly and surely reaching forward, as resources and opportunities accumulated, Mr. Berkey, in co-operation with his partners, laid the foundation of the extended and prosperous enterprise with which he is associated still.

A FEW CHANGES IN PARTNERSHIP have not impeded the steady advance of the firm in enterprise or energy, and so greatly did the business flourish and widen that the remaining proprietors, Mr. Julius Berkey and Mr. Geo. W. Gay, who joined the firm as early as 1866, merged their interests in a corporation during the year just closed.

THE NEW FIRM have commenced their corporate career with the advantage of many years of successful experience, and with a wide-spread reputation; and their capital is authorized by law to be extended to half a million dollars.

AT THE OUTSET OF THESE OPERATIONS the prospects of an extensive furniture trade were not wholly bright; but experience has demonstrated that young and vigorous enterprises can in time rival or surpass even much older institutions; and the furniture manufactured in Grand Rapids is now in successful competition with the productions of the longest established manufactories of the country, and the Berkey & Gay Furniture Company stand second to none in reputation.

THUS FROM A SLENDER COMMENCEMENT has this eminent firm progressed to the high position it now occupies; and at the present time a large factory replete with the most approved machinery, some of it constructed after Mr. Berkey's own designs; warehouses loaded with specimens of the highest style of modern furniture, and lumber yards filled with an immense supply of walnut and other valuable wood, are the substantial and enduring evidence that under divine Providence the prosperity of the firm has been created by well directed economy.

THE SAME PRUDENT MANAGEMENT, which, at the outset, resisted all temptations towards insecure expansion, pervades the conduct of the business now, and is a guarantee to all the patrons of the firm that the prices of all articles offered for sale have not been inflated by the careless purchases of material, or insufficient attention to the details of construction.

PROSPERITY IN THE COURSE OF TRADE has not obstructed the improvement of processes, or the adoption of increased elegance of style and design; and the firm which did not curtail its expenses one hour during the recent exhausting and alarming panic, has affording sufficient demonstration of the possession of high business qualifications.

AT THE PRESENT TIME the operations of this firm extended throughout the largest portion of the United States; and even the comparatively unsettled regions of Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Dacotah and Montana, as well as the older States, and the prosperous cities of San Francisco and Sacramento in California, are indebted to the enterprise of this firm for the possession of many of those elegancies of domestic decoration which add so largely to the comforts and refinements of life.

THE WAREROOMS of the Berkey & Gay Furniture Co., although spacious and occupying the larger portion of five extensive buildings, do not supply sufficient accomodation; but we may expect that ample provision in this behalf will be made as soon as possible, under the superintendent of the present Board of Directors.

Julius Berkey, President
Geo. W. Gay, Treasurer
Arthur J. Holt, Secretary

Tyler, Graham & Co.

This firm began the jobbing and wholesaling of staple notions in Grand Rapids about five years ago, and meeting with great success they established, two years later, a branch of their house in Detroit at Nos. 145 and 147 Jefferson Avenue. The Grand Rapids house is located on Pearl Street, opposite Sweet's Hotel, and is one of the finest appointed business houses in the city.

This firm is now doing a very large wholesale business in the State of Michigan and in the northern parts of the States of Ohio and Indiana, with every prospect of a continuance of their rapidly expanding trade. The affairs of the two houses are conducted on a systematic basis well calculated to insure prosperity. The partners are Messrs. S. M. Tyler, W. L. Graham, A. E. Worden, and A. B. Miner. Mr. S. M. Tyle attends to the buying for the Detroit house, and Mr. A. E. Worden for the Grand Rapids house, while the two other partners, Messrs. Graham and Miner, attend to the finances of the respective establishments.

They purchase their goods principally among eastern manufacturers, and are enabled to place them in the western market at very low figures. Messrs. Tyler and Worden are both experienced buyers, having had long connection with manufacturers of their line of goods; and it is largely due to their energy and foresight that the wholesale market in Grand rapids for staple notions, trimmings, etc., affords all the advantages of the older eastern houses. Indeed, the growth and prosperous of this city is no small item in the commerce of the Valley City.

James S. Crosby & Son

This is one of the most extensive insurance and real estate firms in Grand Rapids. Their record of successful business life in this city extends over a period of sixteen years, and with the progress and growth of the city their business has increased, step by step, until today they represent a long list of the best insurance companies in the world, and extend their real estate transactions over a large territory.

The business of the firm was first opened in Grand Rapids in 1858 by Mr. James S. Crosby. He conducted it successfully for five years, when, in 1863, he associated his son, Mr. Marian S. Crosby, with him as a partner, and from that period the firm has been known under the present style. In their insurance department they now represent the following companies: The Liverpool and London and Globe, with a cash capital and assets of over $20,000,000; the North British and Mercantile, with assets of the United States branch exceeding $1,700,000; the Royal, of Liverpool, with assets reaching a trifle over $12,000,000; the Phoenix, of N.Y., with $2,000,000 assets; also, the Manhattan, the Irving, the Hoffman, the Orient, the Commerce and Faneul Hall companies. To this list should be added the Traveler's and the Railway Passenger Insurance Companies, of Hartford.

Messrs. Crosby & Son, it will be seen by the above list, represent several of the most reliable insurance companies doing business in the United States. All are familiar with the great advantages of the Liverpool and London and Globe. The unlimited liability of its stockholders and its great promptness in discharging all claims recommend it is preference to many others. In short, persons wishing to transact any business either in real estate or insurance will do well to patronize this firm.

Crawford Bros.

Messrs. Frank and Alfred Crawford, two young and enterprising men, citizens of Grand Rapids, are entitled to a mention in this work. They came to Grand Rapids about the time of the war, without means, but through great industry, and, I should say, hard work, they have accumulated considerable wealth and won a reputation worth vastly more. They began the grocery business about five years ago in Grand Rapids, with a capital of only one thousand dollars, but in that short period they have accomplished a great business feat. Their first store was located at the foot of Monroe street where their new block now stands, but they subsequently removed to their present location, No. 13 Pearl street.

They began the erection of the "Crawford Block" in May 1873, and in December of the same year the building was completed and occupied by Messrs. Spring & Avery, the popular dry goods firm. This elegant building is composed of brick and stone, is 44x100 feet, with four stories and a basement, and is one of the handsomest and most serviceable buildings in the city. The building and lot is worth not less than $75,000, but it is not probable that it could be purchased for $80,000.

The growing business of Messrs. Crawford Bros. is larger to-day than ever before. They are doing a large wholesale trade, sending their goods into all parts of Northwestern Michigan, and in the retail trade they do as much business as any house in the city. Their store is always crowded, presenting a scene of busy activity, and the Messrs. Crawford are always there giving personal attention to their customers.

These gentleman rank among the most industrious citizens of Grand Rapids, and their exertions in the past have been largely instrumental in promoting the growth and prosperity of the city. The new Crawford Block is a very good monument to their industry, and it speaks grandly to their praise.

Although they have already accumulated a competency, these gentlemen do not relax their energies. They are pushing forward, enlarging their business and keeping pace with the rapid growth of Grand Rapids.

The new Crawford Block is located in the very heart of the city at the foot of Monroe Street, and is a very valuable addition to the architectural beauty of the city. The entire building is admirably appointed. Broad staircases lead from one floor to the other, making the ascent easy and agreeable. In short, it is admirable adapted to the advanced interests of the city.

Foster, Stevens & Co's New Establishment

The new establishment which Messrs. Foster, Stevens & Co. are now moving into is perhaps the finest, and, with one or two exceptions in Detroit, the most extensive in the State. The stores have a frontage of 50 feet and a depth of 150 feet. They are connected together by two large arches on each floor. The light is abundant, and the different departments of the new establishment present a very fine appearance. The stores are both four stories, besides a spacious and well-lighted basement, which is divided into two parts by the alley, over which the building is arched.

Their are two front entrances, Nos. 10 and 12 Monroe street. The first leads to the hardware department on the main floor, where the heavier goods are kept. The second leads to the stove department, the whole floor of this store being used for the exposition of these goods. In the rear of the main floors are located the general offices of the establishment, and also the private office. In connection with these is a very large burglar and fire proof vault. These offices are divided from the salesrooms by a glass partition, thus giving a view of both stores from the offices.

The ascent to the second floor is made by an easy staircase. Here will be found the glass department, the sample room for the wholesale trade, the shelf goods, etc. On the third floor are the agricultural implements, the tinware department and the work-shops. The fourth floor is to be used for a general warehouse, and the basement for the storage of heavy goods. A steam elevator will make the ascent from floor to floor of this immense establishment, easy and agreeable.

The growth of this house is a matter of establishment. There are hundreds of pioneers in this city can remember Mr. W. D. Foster's little tin-shop which was then all that constituted the establishment. It is now one of the leading hardware houses in the Northwester States. It is not our purpose here to follow the success of this house step by step. The people are familiar with its reputation, and its accomplishments. It will suffice to say that it is now, in all respects, in keeping with, and, perhaps, in advance of the growth of the city of Grand Rapids.

In the next edition of this work, which is to be published next month, containing a more complete history of the county and city, I shall give a more detailed history of the Foster estate.

Aldrich's Bank

Although Mr. Aldrich cannot be called one of the pioneers of Grand Rapids, (having came to this city in 1855) still, the enterprise and energy which marked his career since coming her closely identified him with the rapid growth and improvement of the city.

When Mr. Aldrich first came to Grand Rapids, he engaged in the manufacture of fanning mills, pumps, etc., the sales of the business amounting to over $70,000 yearly.

In 1861 he commenced the banking business, in company with Mr. Ledyard, under the name of Ledyard & Aldrich. In 1862 he sold his interest in the bank of Henry Fralick. After that the bank of Ledyard & Fralick was changed to the City National, in which Mr. Aldrich became one of the principal stock-holders, also, one of the Directors.

In 1867 Mr. Aldrich was elected Mayor, and was re-elected twice, serving the city three years in all.

In 1871, Mr. Aldrich opened his bank, where he still continues to do business, and is well and favorably known by all classes.

Dr. E. Woodruff

This gentleman, who is now a botanic physician in this city, came to this State in May, 1836. he is a native of Courtland county, New York. After he came to Michigan he remained one year in the village of Barneyville, Calhoun county, (now known as Homer); at that time the village contained one store and one tavern.

A description of the many scenes and incidents of pioneer life in which he took part would fill a large volume. The Indian feast, the dance, the hunt, games, etc., all of which, when told in his happy style, holds the listener's attention closely bound to his recital.

We have given descriptions of Indian and pioneer life in other parts of this book of which he was an eyewitness, and we are indebted to him for much information on many of these subjects.

We find him now, after many years of hardships, quietly enjoying the fruits of his labors. The profession which he has chosen is alike beneficial to his fellow man and remunerative to himself.


Document Source: Tuttle, Charles R., History of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids: Tuttle & Cooney, 1874.
Transcriber: Jennifer Godwin
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/tuttle1874/chapter25.html
 
Created: 21 August 2000