Thursday, March 5, 2020

50-Year Businesses (part 1)

A handful of Maynard businesses present at the centennial made it to 2020 – a year before the sesquicentennial – criteria being no name change. Gruber Bros. Furniture gets honorary mention even though the doors closed in 2015.

Fowler-Kennedy Funeral Home, Concord St., Maynard, MA
Fowler-Kennedy Funeral Home: This establishment will celebrate its 150th anniversary the same year as the Town of Maynard! Henry Fowler – a signer of the 1871 petition to create the town of Maynard – was an undertaker. His son Orrin S. Fowler followed into the family business in 1887. Orrin’s son, Guyer Fowler, moved the business to the Concord Street location in 1941. There, he continued the family trade until a year before his death, selling the business to John A. Kennedy in 1955. The business was renamed Fowler-Kennedy. Kennedy sold the business to John E. Erb, his son-in-law, in 1981. Business in turn sold to Glenn D. Burlamachi in 2014, to Matthew M. Farrow in 2017. Thus, we have a business without a current connection to the owners that gave it a name, but the occupation remains the same.

Parker Hardware: Thomas F. Parker opened a store in the Amory Block building (later, Gruber Bros. Furniture). Parker Hardware moved to Nason Street, back to Main, and then to its present location at 239 Main in 1980. An envelope in the Historic Society collection reads "Since 1892, Your Friendly Store", providing “Hardware, Paint, Oils, Etc.” The present-day owners – no relation to Parker – have been running the business since 1970.

Gruber Bros. Furniture, Maynard, MA
Gruber Brothers Furniture: The original building, three stories tall, known as the Amory Block, dated to 1868. A meeting hall on the second floor served as host to Maynard’s first town meeting, April 27, 1871. Julius and Benjamin Gruber started their business there in 1917, bought the building 1919. Starting in 1922, upstairs was Riverside Theatre (motion pictures), managed by Samuel Lerer. After a 1934 fire the re-build was to a one-story building with Gruber Bros. Furniture as its sole occupant. Next generation went to Burton “Burt” Gruber, Julius’ son. In a 1982 interview he had recounted a story about selling $69 worth of office furniture on credit to a couple of guys starting a business named Digital Equipment Corporation. When Burt retired operation of the business went to his nephew, Joel B. Cohen.

Gruber Bros. closed its doors November 2015 – three generations and 98 years as a family business. As Joel put it, "When I was 16 years old my mother sent me over to the store to help with a furniture delivery. Now, 54 years and one hip replacement later, it’s time for me to get off the truck and retire." As of 2020 the building is slated for destruction to make way for a four-story brick apartment building with retail tenant(s) on the first floor.
Hawes Florist, est. 1932, Maynard, MA
Hawes Florist: The Hawes family was operating out of Sudbury, with greenhouses. In 1932 Hawes opened a florist’s shop on Nason Street. Victor Tomly worked there part-time while in school, then in 1961 he and his wife Marion bought the business, as the next generation of Hawes family members was not interested. They moved the business to 70 Powder Mill Road in 1971. Victor still works there and his daughter Melissa is carrying on the family tradition.

Butler Lumber, est. 1938, Maynard, MA

Butler Lumber: Doing business since 1938, currently going by “Butler Lumber, Pipe and Stone”, the company has been at 67 Parker Street since 1947. The name comes not from being Butler family owned, but rather that it got started on Butler Avenue. Ron and Helga Starr owned it from 1973 to 2019. Mike Sawvelle then made the transition from long-time manger to owner. Butler offers construction supplies of all sorts, plus a wide assortment of tools, etc. That “etc.” is much larger than you can image, the concept being that if every possible thing is in stock, nothing will ever have to be special ordered. Wander around the store – excepting things such as left-hand threaded bolts – Butler probably has it.

Erikson's Ice Cream employees, in E-shirts (2011). Click to enlarge.
Erikson’s Ice Cream:  Hans Eriksen starting a dairy farm and milk delivery business in Stow, along White Pond Road, in 1902. Home delivery was by horse and wagon. His son, Hans Eriksen, Jr., returned from serving in the U.S. Army in France during World War I, and took up the family business, which by this time had shifted to buying milk from local farmers rather than milking their own cows. Hans Eriksen, Jr., moved the dairy to its present site, just inside Maynard’s border, in 1937, and started the ice cream operation next door, making 2020 the 83rd year in the ice cream business.

The fourth generation now manages the business and their children have put in time scooping ice cream. Over the years, Erikson’s has provided employment to hundreds of high school students. Many of the alumni make a point of stopping in at Erikson’s when visiting family or old friends still living in the area.

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