The early years and founding of Alfred L. Schiller Hardware
Here are some of the writing from our founder, Alfred Schiller, as he moved, worked, started a business and a family
Alfred L. Schiller
Born June 4, 1893
Died January 5, 1972
In his own words. The early years and founding of Alfred L. Schiller Hardware.
1908 – Aurora, IN
Early in the year, Aunt Lizzie (Schiller) was planning a trip to visit Aunt Katie Pohlmann (Hauck) in Louisville, Kentucky. If I proved myself worthy, I might be taken along. Worthy meant running errands such as picking up separate threads for my aunt who was a dressmaker for many customers. In the meantime, I did some stitching and needle work myself. If I sat long enough I would earn penny.
So, during vacation we went to Louisville for several days on a B&O Train for a week’s excursion ($1.00 round trip). The trip included visits to Aunt Katie, son Jake, also Edward Pohlmann and Maggie. Ed invited me to join him for a Saturday night trip to the Albrecht & Heick Hardware store. He was interested in their store. They did a tremendous business, customers being 3 deep in front of the counter.
This too impressed me so much that during fall and winter of 1908 I wrote several letters to Pohlmann and Heick seeking employment. Mr. Heick finally in spring of 1909 agreed to give me a trial at $4.00 per week. Aunt Katie was agreeable to board me so after Easter, to Louisville I went. My first pay was $4.50.
While at Albrecht & Heick on W. Jefferson, I helped William Benther with window and other displays and believe was the first one to make a counter display to sell fast moving items such as nail sets. This allowed us to avoid taking several boxes from the shelf in order to sell one nail set.
There was farmer trade from as far away as Prospect and Skylight along the Inter-Urban Rail Line. Deliveries were made by horse and wagon to all parts of the city, sometimes by wheelbarrow. If the Prospect people would telephone, we would take materials to the Inter-Urban Line at Brook and Green Street. Barbwire and kegs of nails delivered in a wheelbarrow. It took a wagon and mule all day to deliver a load of building material to several contractors at Jacobs Addition (southwestern Louisville). This was the active section of the city at the time.
In 1911 or 1912, Henry Heick decided to buy Jones and Miller Hardware Company at 320 W. Market Street taking William Benther, Ed Pohlman and myself with him.
The Army drafted me September 1917. Mr. Heick died in October, so when I returned (from World War I) in February 1919 the whole family had moved into the business. Mr. Benther and Pohlmann had resigned for personal reasons.
I stayed with Heick’s until they liquidated in August 1929 because their lease was put up for sale 5 years earlier, 1925, at double the rate. The man who bought the lease never used it because the stock market crash of September 1929 took him and his business.
Knowing what was happening at Heick’s, Mr. John Dunphy persuaded me to continue in the builders hardware, only by myself, which I did at 413 S. 3rd Street. Mr. Dunphy knowing all the salesmen whose lines I wanted had them to go along with me on a very limited basis. I will never know how I got thru on the limited amount funds I had. Of course, Aunt Lizzie came thru with savings she had in Aurora B&L which she finally gave me. My brother Henry let me have some on a loan until he needed it for a home. I never missed a discount.
My fate seemed to be in that my competition had lots of high price merchandise and I could go in the market and buy at lower prices to compete with them.
Reviewing the period between February 1919 and my starting into business on my own I must say we had some trying times. I married the first time in October 1919 (Anna Zoeller) and enjoyed 5 years of happy marriage until Anna died giving birth to Norma on September 2, 1924.
Although the 1920’s were flourishing years we at Heick’s could not make any progress because of some bad deals the eldest son made repeatedly causing the lack of inventory. Another bad break came in 1925 when the property owner placed the lease up for sale. Heick’s did not care to assume the annual lease at $10,000 when they were paying only $5,000.
As the 1929 date arrived, no plans made to move, the only recourse was to liquidate. I stayed with them until September 1929. The Heick’s moved what contents remained to a warehouse on Main Street between 2nd and 3rd streets. Those were sold piecemeal.
Before September was over the stock market crashed, the bottom fell out. But I had signed a lease and went through with the same the hard way. I made a box of crackers and a pound of cheese be my lunch for the week.
I had some very faithful friends and the Lord. Joseph Buschermole was with me from the start with only bare walls. I did use the limited credit the various manufacturers extended. I owned a 2 door Dodge Coupe in which I solicited business and delivered what I sold.
Norma and I were living with the Zoeller’s for which I was paying $10 or $15 per week. In 1934 conditions were improved so in 1935 things looked better and Frieda (Presser) and I married.