WEST PALM Seashore, Fla. (AP) — Halsey & Griffith Inc. started as a 168-square-foot stationery retail store in downtown West Palm Seaside in 1921, and this month the family members-owned enterprise that has reinvented alone several times is celebrating the iconic business’s 100th anniversary.
Started by John L. Griffith and William L. Halsey, the firm has persevered in the face of hurricanes, the Terrific Despair, World War II, a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991 and a 1993 restructuring, when it shifted its emphasis from retail to the copier business enterprise.
Longtime spot residents will remember its heyday from the 1960s to the 1980s, when its shop at 313 Datura St. was the place to go for business office, art and engineering materials, cameras and photographic materials, publications, items and greeting playing cards.
“Plus it was air-conditioned! Anyone in West Palm Seashore shopped at Halsey & Griffith,” the company’s president, Robert L. “Robbie” Siemon, 72, explained. James Waugh, Robert’s grandfather, acquired Halsey & Griffith from the founders in 1948.
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Halsey’s, as it was typically identified as, turned a regional chain with 11 merchants from Vero Seaside to Boca Raton. In the 1980s, Halsey & Griffith was a single of the area’s top business office suppliers, employing 175 men and women and reporting annual earnings of $12.5 million.
Several improvements have occurred considering that then. In 2016, the company rebranded alone as HGi Systems, right after it moved away from advertising business home furnishings and supplies. Now, Siemon claimed, It’s a South Florida leader in the copier organization, marketing and servicing copiers, printers, mailing systems and doc-administration systems.
With an workplace in West Palm Seashore and a distribution heart in Miami Gardens close to the Golden Glades Interchange, the now 45-worker enterprise serves buyers in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
This yr, HGi started off a new enterprise beneath the Halsey & Griffith umbrella, HGi Engineering Products and services, a total-assistance IT enterprise. “We believe our IT Products and services will be a quite critical part of our small business in the upcoming,” Siemon mentioned.
In January, Siemon’s son Blake, 48, who started out doing work whole-time at the business in 1999, will turn into its president, even though Robert Siemon will continue to function there. Robert’s brother James manages the economic conclude of the business. The two have led the enterprise because 1989 soon after their late father, Robert T. “Bob” Siemon, retired.
Blake Siemon, a graduate of Forest Hill Substantial School and Florida Atlantic University, worked at Halsey & Griffith’s warehouse on Outdated Okeechobee Road when he was in substantial college.
“A whole lot of kids from Forest Hill worked there and showed up right after hours to pull orders that were being prepared for supply at 5 a.m. the up coming early morning,” Blake Siemon said.
The enlargement into IT providers focuses on purchaser support and great suggestions for little to medium-sized businesses.
“For a handful of a long time we have been supporting people today with efficiencies, computer software and digital workflow and articles administration. It hasn’t been a large element of our company. We are taking that expertise and heading into IT providers,” Blake stated.
One particular of the most difficult periods occurred immediately after the initial business provide superstore opened in Boca Raton in 1988. A West Palm Seashore area quickly adopted. Quite a few mom-and-pop business offer suppliers throughout the nation went out of business enterprise.
“The superstores compelled us to change our target when I took around the enterprise in 1989. We knew we had to diversify. We did not get out of the place of work provide small business until eventually 2018. We downsized significantly to a few destinations,” Siemon reported.
Halsey & Griffith turned an authorized Ricoh copier seller. They earlier had marketed the copiers, but unfortunately the adjust did not happen quickly plenty of, and the corporation was compelled to file for personal bankruptcy. By January 1993, however, it experienced paid out off its personal debt and could after yet again purchase on credit from suppliers.
“At that place I built the choice to go to Miami and operate the copier division,” Robert Siemon claimed. “Before that I experienced an outside the house particular person. I commuted on Tri-Rail for 30 decades, until finally the pandemic.”
A new era experienced started, and development ongoing in the copier division, placing the business back on stable footing. The Siemons attribute the company’s longevity to a services-oriented way of doing small business that goes back again to founders Halsey and Griffith and was continued underneath their family’s ownership.
“Blake represents the fourth generation of the Waugh/Siemon family members to serve in a management part in the organization,” Robert reported. “This is anything we are really very pleased of due to the fact only 3 p.c of family enterprises are even now in company in the fourth technology.”
“Halsey & Griffith has expert several ups and downs, but we have been in enterprise for 100 many years,” Siemon reported. “Halsey & Griffith has been a large element of the West Palm Beach local community for the past 100 many years and has used additional than 1,000 individuals.”
The company was founded through the actual estate growth of the 1920s when Griffith and Halsey, like 1000’s of some others, arrived to West Palm Beach front to make their fortunes. Griffith recognized the need to have for a stationery retailer and opened a 12-by-14-foot retail outlet on what was Poinsettia Avenue.
Within just a 12 months, Griffith moved the retail outlet to a larger sized locale at 220 S. Dixie Highway, and then to the Guaranty Building. At seven stories, it was just one of West Palm Beach’s to start with “skyscrapers.” Developed in 1922, it is now on the Countrywide Register of Historic Spots and is found at the corner of South Olive Avenue and Datura Street.
During this time, Halsey approached Griffith and offered to set up some dollars to grow to be a husband or wife, founding the Halsey & Griffith firm in 1923. In 1925, the downtown retailer was moved to 313 Datura St., a home Halsey owned. The creating initially had three storefronts on the floor ground. Halsey’s occupied 1 and rented the other two. The top two floors ended up the Halsey Hotel.
The early years were not usually uncomplicated. The Fantastic Miami Hurricane hit on Sept. 11, 1926, and halted the Florida land increase. Then on Sept. 6, 1928, the Okeechobee Hurricane struck West Palm Seashore and prompted the Lake Okeechobee dike to fall short. Far more than 2,500 people today died in the hurricane and several of them drowned in the Glades area all over the lake.
Up coming arrived the stock sector crash of 1929, and the enterprise limped alongside for the following 15 or so a long time.
Through Environment War II, producing limitations on objects not connected to the war hampered materials. It was not till right after the war ended these materials started to move and organization began to improve. In 1955, Griffith and Halsey died within just six months of each other.
But nationwide, times have been good, and the retail enterprise started to develop, with the 1st branch retail outlet opening in 1957. The last new branch debuted in Port St. Lucie in 1990.
“In addition to advertising place of work supplies, and furnishings, we also offered art materials,” the late Margaret Siemon wrote in a business heritage. “The famed Black artists, the Highwaymen, acquired or traded their art for paint and canvases above the decades.”
Although typewriters and carbon paper are no for a longer period utilized, the Siemons emphasize that their mission has remained the exact same as a reliable lover for Florida enterprises.
“What fulfills me is that there is a legacy, not just that of my spouse and children, but the superior name of the corporation that we get to carry on and implement to distinct issues,” Blake Siemon reported. “We are a relic of a bygone era as to how we approach organization. That does not make us inconsequential. People today continue to want to start with-course service.”
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