Barend and John Zevalkink

Pages 492-494 - Barend and John Zevalkink are respectively the president and the secretary and treasurer of the Columbian Storage & Transfer Company, which they have developed into one of the largest and most important concerns of its kind in their native city of Grand Rapids, and in conjunction with which they conduct also a retail furniture business of broad scope and importance. The record of these enterprising brothers constitutes and interesting story of initiative and constructive ability admirably applied under present-day conditions and influences, and their achievement as reliable and resourceful business men offers both lesson and incentive. Their furniture business is conducted under the title of Columbian’s Warehouse Furniture Store, and the large and well equipped establishment is situated at the corner of Ionia avenue and Logan street. The headquarters and office building of the company are at 435-39 Ionia avenue. Barend and John Zevalkink were born and reared in Grand Rapids and are sons of Everett John and Mary (Klanderman) Zevalkink, who were born and reared in Holland and who were young folk when they established their home in Grand Rapids more than forty years ago. Everett J. Zevalkink here found employment at railroad work, and while thus engaged he was injured by a fall from a car. Upon recovering from his injuries he purchased a dray and a team of horses, and, forty or more years ago, engaged in transporting freight for factories in the Godfrey avenue district. From an article published in the Grand Rapids Press of January 1, 1924, are taken the following interesting extracts, with minor paraphrase: "When Barend, and later John, Zevalkink, both of whom have inherited the strong physique and the stick-to-it-iveness characteristic of their Holland parents, were old enough to assist their father, new factories had sprung up in the Godfrey avenue district, and work enough was found for all. As years passed on, this family of draymen gained a name for integrity and dependability, and when there was any merchandise requiring particular attention to be moved between factory and warehouse or factory and depot, the Zevalkinks were sure to be found moving it. During furniture markets they worked night and day. * * * Frugality was bred in them, and besides the ability to work hard they had the ability to think straight. Both Barend and John left school at the end of the eighth grade (and at the age of thirteen years), but they made up in intelligence for what they lacked in knowledge gained in the classroom, and this intelligence was equal to the task when they assumed leadership in the warehousing field in Grand Rapids and Michigan. Here was something to be done that was never done before. There were no books giving directions, nor any experiences. Intelligence and the quality to command, then, were essential to mastery of the situation, and the Messrs.

Zevalkink proved equal to the occasion." The great business now controlled by the Zevalkink brothers represents a virtual evolution from the draying business founded by their father, who at the time of his death owned and used eight horses and several drays. In their warehouse and transfer business the two brothers now control the largest business of its kind in the state of Michigan, they having eleven warehouses that give a total floor space of 300,000 square feet. Thought, study and action have entered into their service as business men, integrity has characterized their course at all stages and periods, and their status today offers the best evidence of their ability, their energy, their initiative talents and their constructive versatility in the upbuilding of a great enterprise that had its inception when they purchased, less than ten years ago, the bankrupt business of the Columbian Transfer Company, the title of which they have since retained in their constantly expanding business. Significant is their business motto or slogan, which is: "Not service at cost, but service at any cost." The Zevalkink brothers stand as fine types of the world’s constructive workers, and they have always been workers; they appreciate the dignity and worth of honest toil and endeavor, and through honest toil and endeavor they have gained large success and also fine repute as substantial and representative business men of their native city and state. In a circumscribed sketch such as that here offered, it is impossible to enter into details concerning the two well ordered and important business enterprises developed by these brothers, but results tell the story with greater emphasis than can mere words. The retail furniture business that has been built up by the Zevalkink brothers (in one of their largest warehouses) has shown the returns to be gained from visions translated into action. The enterprise, initiated early in 1924, represents the only warehouse furniture store in western Michigan, and the policies of high-grade service and reasonable prices have caused the business to expand with wonderful speed and solidity, with the result that the Zevalkinks now conduct one of the largest enterprises of this kind in Grand Rapids, a world center of the furniture industry. More than this need not be said. Only new furniture is sold by the brothers in their large retail establishment, and the business for the year 1925 is certain to reach an aggregate of $3000,000. The brothers are members of the American Warehouse Association, the Grand Rapids Association of Commerce and the Grand Rapids Transfer & Storage Association, of which John Zevalkink served two years as president. Both brothers are married and John has one son, James.

Transcriber: Nancy Myers
Created: 25 November 2003