Herpolsheimer Company
and its Founders
(History of Grand Rapids, 1924 Edited by Arthur White)

In all that represents progressive retail merchandising according to the best metropolitan standards, the Herpolsheimer Company has been a exponent of leadership in the city of Grand Rapids during a period of more than half a century, and thus a record concerning the development of the splendid business enterprise of the company properly finds place in this publication, together with brief review of the personal records of the liberal and progressive citizens to whom the Valley City of Michigan is indebted for this representative mercantile establishment. September 12, 1870, William G. Herpolsheimer and C. G. A. Voight became associated in the opening of a small drygoods store on Monroe street, Grand Rapids, this modest establishment having been on the north side of that street and a few doors west of Ottawa street. Effective service and fair and honorable policies gained to the new firm of Voight, Herpolsheimer & Company a business that was cumulatively successful, and very soon the obtaining of larger quarters became a matter of imperative necessity. Thus, on February 1, 1871, the stock of goods was moved across Monroe street and installed in what was then known as the Luce Block, at the southwest corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets. Here, with better facilities, the business continued to expand in scope and importance, and February 1, 1876, removal was made to a still larger store, in the Godfrey Block, on the south side of Monroe street and just east of Ottawa street. Here the entire four floors were brought into requisition in providing space and sales accommodations for the general retail business, including drygoods, carpets, draperies, etc. Later the concern annexed additional space in other buildings fronting on Ottawa street, and in these quarters was developed a substantial wholesale business in the handling of dry goods. December 31, 1901, the Voight interests were withdrawn from the staunch and well-ordered business, which has since been continued, with ever-increasing success, under the title of the Herpolsheimer Company. The main seven-story building of the Herpolsheimer Company, on Monroe and Ottawa streets, was completed by the company in May, 1904, and so rapid was the increase of business that the progressive corporation instituted the erection of its ten-story annex building, adjoining the original building on the west, and this was completed in May, 1911. In 1915 all reserve stocks as well as the wholesale floor covering and drapery business, were removed to the Herpolsheimer warehouse, a three-story building on Ottawa avenue and Louis street, this provision having made available for the retail business several thousand additional square feet of floor space in the main building. In September, 1922, in consonance with its established policy of progressiveness and expansion, this admirable business organization, through its adjunct corporation, the A. B. Herpolsheimer Realty Company, effected the purchase of the Blodgett Furniture Exhibition Building, adjoining the Herpolsheimer Building on the south, and all space in this annex building is to be occupied by the Herpolsheimer Company, through which medium the floor space of the retail establishment will be virtually doubled. At the time of this writing, in the summer of 1925, the company has made ready and is using a considerable portion of the Blodgett building thus acquired. More recently the A. B. Herpolsheimer Realty Company has purchased the building adjoining the present store on the west, and thus is added forty feet more frontage on Monroe avenue. This great retail establishment stands as a monument to those who have developed the same and its large and important business, and both the establishment and the enterprise contribute much to the metropolitan advantages and prestige of Grand Rapids.

William G. Herpolsheimer, one of the two founders of the business, was born at Karlsruhe, Prussia, in 1842, and was a son of Christian and Anna Herpolsheimer, he having been a boy at the time when the family came to the United States and his early education having been received principally in the public schools of Indiana. In 1855 he initiated his association with mercantile business by taking a clerical position in a dry goods store at New Carlisle, Indiana. He was not yet twenty years of age at the inception of the Civil War, but his youthful loyalty found prompt expression in enlisting in the One Hundred and Thirty-Eighth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, which became a part of the Army of the Tennessee and with which he served until the close of the war. In later years he manifested his continued interest in his old comrades by maintaining affiliation with the Grand Army of the Republic. After the close of the war Mr. Herpolsheimer engaged independently in the dry goods business at Michigan City, Indiana, and this review has already recorded his initial enterprise in the retail drygoods business in Grand Rapids in 1870. Honored alike for his large and worthy achievement and for his sterling attributes of character, Mr. Herpolsheimer was one of the veteran business men and influential citizens of Grand Rapids at the time of his death, February 24, 1920, a year that marked the fiftieth anniversary of becoming associated with the dry goods business. He had, however, retired from active business in 1902, and his son, Henry B. became his able successor in the executive control of the great business enterprise. The splendid Herpolsheimer store stands as a monument to this veteran merchant, who likewise found time during his busy and useful life to participate in many other commercial, industrial and financial enterprises. He was a director of the Grand Rapids National Bank from the time of its organization in 1880 until his death. He was stalwart Republican and was a zealous communicant and liberal supporter of Immanuel Lutheran church in his home city. In his will Mr. Herpolsheimer made bequests to each of those who had been in his employ three years or more. Concerning him the following appreciative estimate has been made: "He was among the men who exerted a strong influence in the life of Grand Rapids during the era of its greatest development, and his interest in any cause to which he attached himself was potent in making for the success of that cause." November 13, 1867, Mr. Herpolsheimer was united in marriage to Miss Amelia L. Bremer, daughter of the late Henry Bremer, of Grand Rapids. Mrs. Herpolsheimer died on April 27, 1925, at the age of 78 years. To this union were born four children: Henry B., William B., Anna and Ralph C.

Henry B. Herpolsheimer was born in Michigan City, Indiana, November 8, 1868, and was about two years old at the time of the family removal to Grand Rapids, where his early educational advantages were those of the public schools. When fifteen years f age he became a clerk in his father’s store, and through natural aptitude and the able preceptorship of his father he developed admirable business and executive acumen. His advancement was rapid, and he early began to take upon himself much of the responsibility of the business, he having been made general manager of the establishment in the early nineties and having been largely influential in developing the same into the leading store of its kind in Grand Rapids. Though Mr. Herpolsheimer ever counted the mercantile business as one of paramount interest, he did not confine his activities to this alone. He became a director of the Wolverine Brass Works, the Globe Knitting Works, the Kent State Bank and the Grand Rapids Savings Bank. He was a man of highest civic loyalty and liberality, and was a sincere worker for the good of his home city and state, the while he was never deflected from his high standard of honor and business integrity. Like his father, Mr. Herpolsheimer was a staunch advocate and supporter of the principles of the Republican party, and an earnest communicant of Immanuel Lutheran church, as is also his widow. Mr. Herpolsheimer survived his honored father by less than four months, and his death, on June 5, 1920, took from Grand Rapids on of its leading business men and most influential and highly esteemed citizens. On August 23, 1888, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Herpolsheimer to Miss Caroline K. Brandt, daughter of George J. Brandt, of Grand Rapids, who survives him, as do also their three children – Henry W. G., Arthur B. and Caroline B. Upon the death of her husband Mrs. Herpolsheimer became president of the Herpolsheimer Company, and her son, Arthur B. left his studies at the University of Michigan to take an active interest in the business. December 27, 1923, the Herpolsheimer Company was incorporated under the laws of Michigan, Arthur B., of the third generation of the family being made president of the company, with which he is well upholding the honors of the family name, and his mother, Caroline K. Herpolsheimer, becoming the vice president of the company. He is also a director of the Grand Rapids National Bank.

Transcriber: Evelyn Sawyer
Created: 25 April 2002
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/white 1924/personal/herpolsheimer.html