John F. Kelly

Page 270-271 John F. Kelly - The credit of establishing and developing an ice cream manufacturing concern which has become one of Grand Rapids' largest enterprises is due John F. Kelly, a prominent and able business man who has been engaged in business there since 1903. His father, Patrick Kelly, was a native of Ireland and came to the United States in 1849 settling in Grand Rapids in 1857 where he married Bridget Clune. During the Civil war, he served in the Union army as captain. John F. Kelly was born in Grand Rapids, in 1874. His education was received in the elementary and Central high schools of his native city. He secured a job with a general store at a weekly salary of three dollars per week. After a time spent in the employ of that merchandising house, he went to Washington, D. C., where he worked for a year and a half, returning to Grand Rapids after giving up the work. He immediately left for Jackson, Michigan, however, and at that time first engaged in the ice cream business. He thoroughly absorbed the fundamentals of ice cream manufacture in that city, and the following year, 1903, he returned to Grand Rapids, establishing his present company in a small plant adjoining the Sears bakery on Kent street. An excellent business man thoroughly conversant with every detail of ice cream manufacture, Mr. Kelly applied himself to his new work with an energy which made the company a success from the beginning and within the year larger quarters were occupied at No. 65 Division street. Requiring a still larger plant by the end of three years, Mr. Kelly rented the new William Alden Smith building on Ionia street built especially to accommodate an ice cream plant. The ever growing volume of business rendered imperative the construction of the company's own plant and in 1919 the present fine brick plant, two stories high and 90 by 117 feet, was constructed at the corner of Ionia and Bartlett streets. Neighboring towns and cities as well as the Grand Rapids trade buy ice cream of the Kelly company. The plant is one of the best equipped in the state, only the most modern methods of ice cream manufacture being used. The raw cream is kept in a cold storage room on the second floor and conveyed from there through German silver tubes to the mixers and freezers below. Three cold storage rooms are maintained with the temperature constantly at zero and the newly manufactured ice cream is placed in these rooms until it is ready to be delivered to the customers packed in tubs of ice, but today the product is conveyed in specially constructed trucks bearing refrigerating cabinets to the purchasers. The plant also includes two modern ice machines each capable of manufacturing forty tons of ice a day. The average daily output of the plant is 8,000 gallons of bulk ice cream and 2,000 gallons of brick ice cream. Mr. Kelly stands forth in Grand Rapids commercial circles as one of the able and representative business men, and he is as popular with those who know him as he is respected for the executive ability that has brought him to the fore among his fellows. His brother, Charles A. Kelly, is associated with him in the business, entering the employ of Mr. Kelly as a boy and becoming a partner four years after his graduation from high school in Grand Rapids. Mr. Kelly represented the Eleventh ward in the common council from 1910 to 1914, and is this capacity he gave his strongest support to those measures which had as their object the welfare of the people and the development of the city. Mr. Kelly feels, and justly so, that his business career has been more than successful in view of the fact that he started independent operations with the small capital of $225. In 1902, the year in which he began to learn the ice cream manufacturing business, Mr. Kelly married Jessie Yeakey, a representative of one of the old pioneer families of Michigan, and through the years of Mr. Kelly's struggle for success, she has been a constant source of encouragement to her husband. Mr. Kelly is affiliated with the St. Francis Roman Catholic Church.

Transcriber: Gloria Paas
Created: 23 January 2003