A leisure half hour favoring, we yesterday dropped into the office of the pioneer wholesale house of Bosworth, Wells & Co., and were shown through all the different departments of their business by the junior member of the firm, and buyer, Mr. W. S. Gracey.
For thirty years their offices have been in the rear of the main building, but last fall, during the absence of the senior partner, handsome offices and salesrooms were fitted up at the front, where, on entering, the customer is greeted with a tastily arranged line of samples of the stock and the welcome aroma of hot coffee which always boils for its friends.
Connected with the salesroom, and having an equal frontage on the street, is their office, where the genial Dr. presides at the books, and Mr. M. P. Wells, the senior partner - and the only survivor of the original firm - attends to the finances. Above his desk were large framed photographs of the different members of the firm running back to 1840.
What a span of business life, with all its cares, responsibilities and anxieties! Fifty years! And yet it is the measure of Mr. Wells' connection with the firm, and he is hale and vigorous yet. But Mr. Gracey is waiting and we pass the office portal and enter . . .
The Main Storeroom, where soaps, canned goods, tobaccos, teas, crackers, and an endless variety of case goods were piled high and deep. Stopping a moment to listen to Al Shiers, the bill clerk, calling off a bill of goods that was all lingo to our untutored ears, we pass on through an alleyway between piles to the old office, which looked strange enough, all shelved and stocked with confectionery and chewing gum, enough to keep the dear girls in business till gray-headed. Then, through tiers of cheese and washboards to . . .
The Warerooms, where endless piles of wooden-ware, sugar, Arbuckle and other roasted coffees, brooms, pork, lard, hams, dried beef, bologna - things we know and things we don't know - but piles everywhere - all "in good order and well conditioned" as the bills of lading say. We were surprised at the magnitude of the stock and pleased with the air of order and neatness that pervaded the building. Mr. Gracey very patiently explained everything and added that without system a stock like this would turn the business into chaos.
We were about to go, thinking we had been "shown through," when we were led up to . . .
The Second Floor, where we were bewildered with the display of household tinware in piles and pyramids - everything from a spoon to a half-barrel dish-pan. This department occupies half the area of that floor. Passing between long counters loaded with bright ware of all kinds, we entered the dry goods and notion department, where tables, side-counters and shelving were packed with a wearying variety of useful and fanciful articles, from a needle and fish-hook to a comic clock and a bolt of pant goods.
We started to turn back when our guide led us through an arch into a large room, saying, "this is our drug and spice department," and the odor of snuff, pepper and toilet soaps verified the name. On long counters were arranged over one thousand cases of paregorics and peppermints for the babies, machine and sweet oils, essences of cinnamon and wintergreen for circus days, Godfrey's cordial and laudanum for days after, rows of boxes of pepper, mustard and spices, barrels of drugs in bulk, cans of harness oils, tiers of toilet soaps - all making an assortment for all conditions of man and beast.
Mr. Stanwood was flying around filling orders from the stock in the last three departments, of which he is in charge.
Asking if this was all, we were led into another room, neatly carpeted, where we were shown a handsome display of scales, from the delicately poised and finely plated counter scales, with sensitive agate bearings, to the large floor scale - all of the Howe Scale Co.'s make - for which the firm are agents.
Finding our way back to the office, we asked, "How trade was?" and were told that it never was better at this time of year; that people had to eat, whether it was muddy or dry - and, turning to his work, Mr. Wells added, that business was done very different from former years. Then the firm cut its pork, sifted beans and traded for all kinds of country produce. Now goods are bought in car lots, lard, meats, sugar, syrups, wooden-ware, &c., and on virtually cash-in-hand terms. By buying in such quantities only - both on account of lower prices and lower freight rates - can a business firm compete with large city competitors who are constantly sending their representatives over the trade.
The firm send their salesmen over five railroads and two rivers, and their reputation and long experience give them decided advantages with the trade both in buying and selling. They are justly proud of having, in no single instance, in all their fifty years of business, allowed an obligation to pass maturity, and no house east or west stands higher in reputation for business integrity.
The active management of the business is in the hands of Col. D. P. Bosworth, who recently returned from the East, and Mr. W. S. Gracey, who has been connected with the business for eight years.