Witkop and Holmes

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Contributing Writer
Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist

One of Brooklyn Square’s success stories was the growth of a small, perhaps little remembered business called Witkop and Holmes that grew from a single horse and wagon enterprise in the 1890s to a company that, by 1942, maintained five complete stores in western New York and had more than seventy-five trucks that covered the territory.

From 1930 to 1953, the Jamestown branch of Witkop and Holmes occupied a location at 4-6-10 Market Street on the north side, just where Race Street began, across from the City Public Market. Groceries were the main item sold there, but by 1939, furniture could also be bought at the store along with some toys. Walter Beaty was the manager of the Jamestown store for at least twenty-five years, and by 1942, the store boasted five floors of merchandise.

The Jamestown store was established sixteen years after the company was
founded, again with a single horse and wagon route. But quality merchandise and fair business practices allowed the Jamestown branch of Witkop and Holmes to grow rapidly, and by the early 1940s, the modern store owned seventeen trucks to handle local business and employed more than twenty-five people, many of whom had been with the company for years. As a 1942 newspaper article stated: “One route man has been covering the
Falconer territory for 33 years.”

One of the trademarks of the Jamestown store was its fine line of merchandise that featured everything from groceries to furniture. Witkop and Holmes not only carried their own reputable brands, such as the Witkop and Holmes electric refrigerator, but also brand names that many people were familiar with: the Philco radio, Norge electric refrigerators, Odin gas ranges, Sunbeam mixers, and electric percolators. The Burton washer was another appliance that the store carried, a name well known throughout western New York by homemakers in the 1940s.

In addition to appliances, Witkop and Holmes offered its customers a complete grocery department. Empire Coffee, the store’s own brand, was a featured grocery item known for its uniform taste, quality and above all, freshness. The policy of the company, as stated in a 1942 Jamestown Post-Journal article, was “direct from manufacturer to consumer.” In other words, the middleman was excluded and Witkop and Holmes’s customers had the advantage of buying direct. The company also offered an easy payment plan to the public, and every person in the Jamestown area was invited to open an account at the local store.

The company that started in Buffalo, New York, by Theodore Witkop and
William O. Holmes. was a real success story, and the Jamestown branch of Witkop and Holmes enjoyed a prominent place in the history of Jamestown businesses located in
Brooklyn Square.

To read more of Cortney Linnecke’s creative and informative contributions to the Jamestown Gazette, please go to www.jamestowngazette.com.