Hardware Chains & Tool Brand Research
Western Auto Supply Co.
- Western Auto trademarked 12/30/1969, first use listed as "19190000"
Western Auto Supply Company—known more widely as Western Auto—was a specialty retail chain of stores that supplied automobile parts and accessories. It operated approximately 1200 stores across the United States. It was started in 1909 in Kansas City, Missouri, by George Pepperdine, who later founded Pepperdine University.
Western Auto was bought by Beneficial Corporation in 1961; Western Auto's management led a leveraged buyout in 1985, leading three years later to a sale to Sears. Sears sold most of the company to Advance Auto Parts in 1998, and by 2003, the resulting merger had led to the end of the Western Auto brand and its product distribution network.
- Ben Pepperdine sold the Western Auto Company to the O. H. Bond Motor Car Company of Parsons, KS in 1917/1918 Source: January 2, 1918 Motor World
- Ben Pepperdine is identified as the President of the Western Auto Supply Company in Volume 6, Issue 1 of "Business," 1924
- Ben Pepperdine patent 2191725 for a torque wrench 1940
- February 24, 1916 Automotive Industries reports George Pepperdine selling 1/2 interest in Western Auto to Don A. Davis, who is made President at 1426 Grand Avenue, Kansas City, MO
- April 26, 1919 edition of "Automotive Topics" reports George Pepperdine as President of Western Auto of Los Angeles and has leased a large facility at the corner of Michigan Ave. and 16th in Chicago.
- November 25, 1914 Issue of The Horseless Age reports the Incorporation of Western Auto Supply in Kansas City by George and Lena Pepperdine, "and one other."
- The June 28, 1918 edition of Southwest Builder and Contactor announces the formation of George Pepperdine, Inc. ($50,000 capital stock) by George and Lena Pepperdine, and Ernest R. Baker, all of Los Angeles, CA
- Full success story of George and Lena Pepperdine, American Garage and Auto Dealer - Page 16, October, 1922. This story indicates the business starting in 1909 with $5 capital and "the western stores" were formally incorporated as the Western Auto Supply Company
- An article in Forbes, May 22, 1922 lays out the Western Auto "Savings Sam" trade-mark and strategy.
- Western Auto buys out the Auto Parts Supply Co., founded in 1912 in the Northwest. Reported in Motor West, July 1, 1921
- Walkers Manual of Corporations reports Gambles Stores Inc. gained controlling interest of Western Auto in 1939.
- This snippet from the Commercial and Financial Chronicle 1934 refers to George Pepperdine as "the former president of Western Auto Supply."
- This report in a 1939 Business Week edition appears to announce the sale of the Western Auto Supply Co. to Gamble-Skogmo. The headline, which is not visible in the snippet reads: "Gamble-Skogmo buys Western Auto"
- **NEW** A newspaper article in the 8/15/1939 edition of The Evening Herald (Klamath Falls, OR) provides the details of Gamble's acquisition of Western Auto. Gamble's bought out George Pepperdine's stock.
- In the 1940 Certified List of Domestic and Foreign Corporations by the State of Illinois, Ben and Dora Pepperdine are listed as the principals for BOTH Cragin Tool Company AND Bog Manufacturing Company, with both companies listed at 2120 N. Menard Ave. Chicago. The 1939 Edition of the same publication lists both companies as well, with the same principals.
- Awarded on 8/22/1939 and applied for on 6/23/37, Ben Pepperdine is awarded a patent for his Combination Puller, #2,170,461
Hand Tool Brands:
- Trademark information on the Wizard brand states the earliest first use as 05/03/1937. The "Wizard" brand was put on everything from refigerators to ironing boards, to screwdrivers to electric power tools.
- Trademark information has a first award date of 9/11/1951, and notes first use in commerce as 11/3/1942.
- ToolCraft - Western Auto appears to have attempted to trademark this name for all sorts of tools in the early 1990's but each filing was met with protest from an unknown entity.
Gamble's Auto Supply Co.
Born at the end of the 19th century, Bertin Gamble and Philip Skogmo were boyhood friends in Arthur, North Dakota (30 miles northwest of Fargo). As young men, they each came separately to Minnesota and worked in a variety of jobs. In 1920, they pooled their resources, borrowed some money and purchased the Hudson-Essex automobile agency in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, which they sold in 1921 after acquiring both the Ford and Dodge agencies in that city. Soon they discovered the sale of auto parts and accessories was the most profitable part of their car dealerships. In March 1925, they opened the first Gamble Auto Supply store in St. Cloud, Minnesota. In 1928, they moved their headquarters to Minneapolis. By 1929, the chain consisted of 55 stores in five states. Eventually, Gamble stores were franchised, and by 1939 there were 1,500 Gamble dealers and 300 corporate stores in 24 states. In 1947, Gamble-Skogmo went public with its first offering of common stock. Philip Skogmo died in 1949.
The original Gambles store in St. Cloud (1925) was so successful that four more stores opened in the Dakotas within ten weeks. The partners decided to incorporate Gamble-Skogmo, Incorporated 1n 1928, and shortly thereafter moved the headquarters and central warehousing to Minneapolis. By the end of the year there were 55 Gambles retail outlets in five states. By 1933 they had added 100 more outlets and grown annual corporate sales to $10 million. Franchised dealerships were inaugurated in 1933 and, in 1941, clothing and other "softlines" were added to the staple "hardlines" business, a diversification made necessary by the unavailability of consumer hard goods during World War II.
The corporation went international in 1945 with the acquisition of the 270 Macleod hardlines retail outlets in Western Canada. Gamble-Skogmo went public in 1947, and partner Phil Skogmo died in 1949. The company expanded into mass merchandising by forming its Tempo Stores division in 1962, which grew into a chain of 50 discount shopping centers. The following year saw the acquisition of the 286-store Stedmans chain, which operated throughout Canada. In 1964 Gamble-Skogmo entered the catalog merchandising field by acquiring the large Aldens operation, including its life insurance subsidiary. In 1966 Founder's, Incorporated was merged into the corporation, bringing it a women's wear chain (Mode O'Day), and a group of variety stores including Cussins & Fearn and Rasco stores, and Buckeye Mart Discount Department Stores. In the same year the corporation also acquired the House of Fabrics chain and formed Gambles Import Corporation to direct the purchase of goods made overseas. In 1967 Gamble-Skogmo formed a real estate subsidiary, Gamble Development Company, to develop and lease shopping centers, and also acquired the 400-store Red Owl supermarket chain, which also included 62 Snyder's drug stores. Between 1969 and 1972 the corporation several leasing business lines, launched Gambles home improvement centers, and acquired the 24-store Woman's World clothing chain.
From the mid-1940s to the end of the 1970s, Gamble and Skogmo diversified their businesses into many new endeavors, including a discount division, financial services, real estate, and retail businesses such as Aldens mail order company, Woman's World Shops, Red Owl Grocery and Snyder Drug stores. At the end of this period of growth, Gamble-Skogmo was the 15th largest retailer in the United States with 4,300 stores and 26,000 employees in 39 states and Canada. In 1977, Bert Gamble retired from the company. In 1978, they attempted a takeover of Washington, D.C.-based retail conglomerate Garfinckel, Brooks Brothers, Miller & Rhoads, Inc. Gamble-Skogmo purchased a 20-percent share from the Joseph R. Harris family, thereby gaining a controlling interest in the conglomerate. A court suit resulted in an agreement that Gamble-Skogmo would not acquire any more stock in Garfinckel.
Gamble served as president and chief executive officer of Gamble-Skogmo, Incorporated, the umbrella firm that controlled the myriad operating companies, into 1963. He continued to serve as chairman of the board of directors and corporate CEO until retiring in September 1977.
In 1980, it was sold to the Wickes Corporation of California. The purchase was highly leveraged, the combined companies struggled, and in 1982 Wickes filed for bankruptcy. In the subsequent reorganization, the Gamble-Skogmo empire was sold off in pieces or, in the case of Aldens, closed. In 1986, Bert Gamble died. Following the Wickes' entry into receivership in 1984, the remaining Gamble-Skogmo businesses were returned to a new company formed by five Gambles Division officers, who reincorporated Gamble-Skogmo, Incorporated.
Aldens was established in 1889 under the name Chicago Mail Order and Millinery Company and was incorporated in Illinois on December 15, 1902. In 1906 the name of the business changed to Chicago Mail Order Company. In the mid-1930s Aldens expanded its operations through acquisitions. It acquired the goodwill and mailing lists of M.W. Savage Company of Minneapolis in April 1935, Hamilton Garment of New York in May 1936, and D.T. Bohon of Kentucky in June 1936.
In 1946 the company changed its name to Aldens, Inc., and was the fourth-largest mail-order distributor in the United States. Gamble-Skogmo acquired a 46% interest in Aldens, and acquired the remaining stock in the company in 1964. The catalog operation was liquidated in 1985.
Beginning in 1961 the company began offering life insurance for sale through its catalog, operated by its wholly owned subsidiary, John Alden Life Insurance Company.
Cussins & Fearn Company
Cussins & Fearn Co., Northern Lights Shopping Center, Columbus, Ohio
The Cussins & Fearn Company was a chain of stores that sold a wide variety of items including hardware, housewares, plumbing and heating, automotive, appliances, farm supplies, furniture and many other hardlines products. The store format was similar to that of Gambles Stores. The Company was founded in 1893 by Charles D. Cussins and William A. Fearn. By 1947, the chain had 30 stores and 44 stores at its peak, all of which were company owned and located in Ohio. Cussins and Fearn Stores were eventually phased out and replaced by Buckeye Mart discount department stores.
Discount Department Stores
Gamble-Skogmo operated discount department stores under various nameplates throughout the United States. Gamble-Skogmo operated Rasco-Tempo discount department stores in Western states (operated by the Rasco Variety Stores Division), Tempo Discount Department Stores in Midwestern and Great Plains states and Buckeye Mart stores in Ohio (operated by the Cussins & Fearn Co. Division). The Tempo and Buckeye Mart divisions were later merged to become the Tempo-Buckeye Stores division based in Minneapolis and Columbus, Ohio. Tempo and Buckeye Mart stores in Ohio and Michigan were sold to Fisher's Big Wheel in the late 1970s, with the remaining Tempo stores transferred to the F. S. Rasco & Co. variety store division. The remaining Tempo stores were closed in the early 1980s following the bankruptcy of parent company Wickes.
Gamble-Skogmo also owned a 49% interest in Clark's Gamble Corporation, which operated Clark's Discount Department Stores in the United States and Canada. In 1968, Clark's-Gamble Corporation and its stores in the United States were purchased by discount store operator Cook United, Inc., based in Cleveland, Ohio. Gambles retained ownership of Clark's-Gamble of Canada Limited, the operating unit for Clark's stores in Canada.
We begin to see Gambles Auto Supply Co. in 1918, in the South Dakota "Report to the Auditor." We also see them consistently through the late teens and early twenty's suggesting the company was formed well before Wikipedia reports above. However, we do find an article in the 6/8/1927 edition of The Brainerd Daily Dispatch (Brainerd, MN) which reports 18 current locations in North and South Dakota, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The article reports the first store opening on March 21, 1925 in St. Cloud, MN. The first stores were opened by the owners Bert Gamble and Phil Skogmo. In 1928, they incorporated all their stores as Gamble-Skogmo and the stores to Gamble's Stores. Up until 1928, store owners were allowed to purchase their own stock. Once incorporated, Gamble and Skogmo consolidated purchasing and standardized inventory. They pioneered the practice of showing merchandise via "open display counters" which is thought to be one of the major factors in their rapid growth. In 1933, they came up with the idea of "agency stores." This process allowed filling stations and the like to become associated with the Gamble's brand. By 1940, there were 1600 agency stores, 249 headquarter stores, and 14 warehouses across the nation. In April of 1955, The Albuquerque Journal reports that Western Auto has taken over 140 Gamble's stores in 7 western states for $10M.
A newspaper advertisement from August, 1927 promotes the sale of Hinsdale tools at Gamble's stores. The ad offers set G20 "Master Socket Wrench Set" and the No. 12B.R. set, consisting of a ratchet, el handle, extension and 9 sockets, all hex drive and in a small trapezoid shaped metal container with "sliding" lid.