Hy-Vee Historical Article


From Small Business Venture to Incorporation - Includes 24 Stores, Baker and Mill -
Headed by Hyde and Vredenburg

This is a story that should begin with the words, "Once upon a time," because it concerns the almost unbelievable growth of Hyde and Vredenburg from a small general store at Kellerton to the present incorporation which includes 24 stores, a bakery and a mill, all within the past nine years.

It includes the story of the days when Charley Hyde was the chief clerk, head bookkeeper, and window trimmer and when D. M. Vredenburg was busy day and night driving a second-hand Ford pick-up and a two wheel trailer over the country doing the buying and the delivering. Today these men head an organization doing well over two million dollars of business a year and have a group of highly efficient managers and employees totaling approximate 360 to share in the work involved in keeping 24 stores in operation.

Back in 1927 Mr. Hyde started in business at Kellerton with a stock that did not invoice more than $3,500. He owned a half interest in the business and the General Supply Company held the other shares. The firm handled yard goods, shoes, work clothes and groceries.

By hard work during the following two years Mr. Hyde was able to save $1,500 and with a like sum put up by Mr. Vredenburg the two men branched out and established stores at Beaconsfield and Grand River. They paid for their fixtures and went in debt to Burn-Hammer Dry Goods Company of Omaha for $6,000 in dry goods and work clothing. C. C. Proudy of Des Moines extended credit for $3,000 stock of groceries and the stores were ready for business. The following year Mr. Vredenburg separated himself from the General Supply Company and took over their half interest at Kellerton, thus becoming the partner of Mr. Hyde in three stores.

Recognized as a good credit risk the two men were able to buy heavily enough to keep the three stores well stocked. They had their share of reverses however as business conditions were far from normal. During this time many firms which had been established for years were unable to weather the depression storms but both Mr. Vredenburg and Mr. Hyde kept working long, hard hours and forged ahead.

In those days they were too busy taking care of daily business details to invoice more than once a year. It was also a policy of the firm to extend some credit. Today the story is different. Invoicing is done every 30 days and all stores are on a cash basis.

Looking toward the future both men decided that it was time to specialize in one line, that is, if they wanted to be grocery men they should concentrate on groceries and not divide their attention on yard goods, shoes and general merchandise.

They sold their general stock and in 1934 established the Lamoni store which was devoted to groceries and fresh meats. Mr. Hyde was now a meat cutter as well as clerk, bookkeeper and general-all-over the store hand. For two more years Mr. Vredenburg continued to drive his second-hand Ford between Kansas City, Des Moines and Ottumwa buying merchandise at a price which gave the Supply Stores a slight advantage over common methods of merchandising. Before long business was so good that the firm decided to buy a new V-8 panel pick-up and with its purchase they thought they had solved their transportation problems. Today they own trailer trucks and haul merchandise to all of the stores. Mr. Vredenburg continues to be on the road much of the time but not to deliver merchandise, rather to take care of business details.

In the fall of 1935 they received a long distance call from O. B. West Company informing them two carloads of cabbage had been shipped to them. Mr. Hyde had not ordered the cabbage and took it with the understanding they would sell what they could. The result was both cars were sold and Hyde and Vredenburg had a taste of buying in large quantities. The next year 87 cars of potatoes were sold and since then the firm has considered carload buying as ordinary as their first experience was extraordinary for them.

There are other business organizations which have earned success much in the same manner of Hyde and Vredenburg but it has taken them longer to accomplish it than the nine year period in which Hyde and Vredenburg has required. Along with other successful firms Hyde and Vredenburg has efficient help a good organization, smart buyers and above average merchandising specialists, but Hyde and Vredenburg do not attribute their success to that alone. A group of managers who share in both the responsibilities and profits is their answer to the question of their success. Since they put their managers on divided profit basis they have been experiencing not only increased profits but have had the pleasure of working shoulder to shoulder with a group of contented, ambitious, hard working managers who are earning incomes above the average.

All managers who have been with the firm for two years are stockholders and the rest are anxious to invest in the company as soon as they are financially able. In the beginning Hyde and Vredenburg trained their clerks and managers, hiring men who wanted work and would stick to a job regardless of the fact they had been employed as farm hands, truck drivers, preachers, or were unemployed high school graduates. Today, however, since the business has grown so large and stores are being established in county seats, they require experienced managers. However, in some instances clerks are still trained for managership. If an employee shows promise of becoming a manager he is encouraged and later given a chance to prove his ability.

Every two weeks the managers meet in Lamoni for a group discussions. Merchandising methods, advertising problems and items which should be bought in quantities are talked over by the group. Since early fall of 1939, Robert Bixby has taken over some of the duties formerly taken care of by Mr. Vredenburg and is now store supervisor in charge of sales. Formerly a store manager, Bixby now travels between towns and spends his time establishing new stores.

In 1925 the bookkeeping became too heavy for Mr. Hyde to continue handling and Mrs. Cora Leverson Roberts was engaged to do the book work. She was employed by the local LDS church and was working at the stake office but arranged to give two hours a day to Hyde and Vredenburg. A large desk in one corner of the store was all the office the firm had. Before long it was necessary for her to work half days which she did for six months. At that time Mr. Hyde made arrangements to move the office to quarters in the bank building. After careful consideration, she decided to give up the church position and take a chance of full-time employment with Mr. Hyde. Today there are five girls in the office and Mrs. Roberts is so busy she hardly has time to think back to the days when she worked two hours a day to keep Hyde and Vredenburg books.

In the fall of 1937 a warehouse was built in Lamoni where all merchandise could be shipped and then distributed among the stores. The building has been added to since then and spacious office quarters provided. The past year 103 carloads of merchandise were shipped in by freight and Hyde and Vredenburg paid the railroad $17,000 freight charges. Based on past growth and the yearly increase in Hyde and Vredenburg's business the Burlington railroad anticipates such a substantial increase in freight shipments to Lamoni in 1940 that officials are investigating the advisability of building a cold storage plant here where fresh fruits and vegetables can be kept and the Supply Stores given better service on those items.

D. M. Vredenburg and Mr. Hyde remained partners until January 2, 1938, when the business was incorporated. Since then the expansion has been a steady process, and indication are that still more progress is in the future for the firm. They have already added a bakery in their business and still in the future consider a packing plant, flour mill, and other branches.

Business executives and statistical experts claim that Hyde and Vredenburg has the ideal plan for expansion. The firm has a market for its products whereas most firms have to seek a market. When the Bakery was added Hyde and Vredenburg, Inc., knew it had an outlet for the bread. Wrapped in 8 and 8 wrappers the bread was shipped to each of the stores where it met with immediate success. Two new additions were built and new equipment purchased during the first year of the bakery. Now, in addition to Supply Stores, the bakery is selling bread to 25 other stores under different wrappers.

It is a pleasure to discuss business with either Mr. Hyde or Mr. Vredenburg as they enjoy their work and are proud of their firm. In looking forward [to] the future and making plans for additional stores the two men skip over the hardships and trials of their first early years when long, hard hours of work were required during the nights to keep the business going during the days.

They have not forgotten, however, their first venture in sausage making. They bought a sausage mill at Beaconsfield where they ground a ton of meat at a time, then hurried around to distribute the sausage to the stores at Kellerton and Grand River for the Saturday's special. After making the sausage, distributing it, then they had to weigh it up two or three pounds at a time and sell it over the counter the next day.

Today the responsibilities of the business are shared by a board of directors, made up of Dwight Vredenburg, president of the corporation; Ralph Baker, vice-president; Charley Hyde, secretary-treasurer; D. M. Vredenburg, general manager; Robert Bixby, sales supervisor; Dale Gamet and Don Monroe, both store managers.

In 1935 Hyde and Vredenburg enjoyed over a million dollars gross business but the past year's figures exceeded the 1938 total by $1,300,00. Based on that increase and the determination of the organization to continue expansion, the future looks more than promising for Hyde and Vredenburg, Inc., Lamoni's largest business asset.

The Lamoni Chronicle, Lamoni, Decatur County, Iowa, Thursday, March 14, 1940, Page 1
Clipping courtesy of Bob Bixby, July 2015; Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, July 2015
History Index   ***   Decatur County IAGenWeb