Schmidt was a determined businessman


In 1856, Henry Schmidt, born in Germany, came to Xenia to make a living. He had less than $100 to invest but was determined become a successful businessman.

After he came to Xenia, he met and married Miss Etta Sinz who was born where Wilberforce University now stands. She spent her childhood days in a house on King Street just south of Main after her father established a grocery and baking business in Xenia. The family lived in a house just behind the grocery store and it was in the living room of that house that the young couple spoke their wedding vows. In 1940, both structures were removed and the Schmidt Building was erected at that location.

Henry worked in the tannery for a time, but this was not a good job. The smell was terrible and stayed with a person. He decided he would grow vegetables on a plot south of town. When the vegetables were ready, he rented a stairway at 68 S. Detroit Street where he came each day to sell his crops.

He did not have a horse, so he made a cart, which he personally pulled up Cincinnati Avenue in order to transport the vegetables to town to sell. From this effort, he earned the nickname “Hoss.”

It wasn’t long before his business was successful enough that he was able to expand and purchase a horse to pull the wagon.

There was a mill located at Detroit and Second streets. The farmers brought their grain and often had to wait for their turn. Depending on how busy the mill was, it could be a wait of several hours. Schmidt saw that as an opportunity and would sell fresh vegetables to the farmers while they waited in line. He saw another opportunity at that location and sent his son to purchase bread at the local bakery. He proceeded to make and sell sandwiches to the waiting farmers. An enterprising young man, he also drew water from a well on South Detroit Street and made lemonade which he also sold.

He entered the grocery business in 1869, and this became one of the most thriving businesses in the city. In 1880, Henry retired, leaving his son, H.E. to run the business.

Soon, H.E. Schmidt branched into a winter business. Selling vegetables in the summer was profitable, but during the winter, another business venture was successful. He opened an ice house near Second Street and Bellbrook Avenue.

William “Bud” Schmidt remembered as a small child watching his grandfather and other men go to Shawnee Lagoon which at that time was owned by Mr. Sutton. Ice would be scored and then removed to the ice house where it was stored. At that time, refrigerators were not available, and in the summer, especially, ice would be used for refrigeration.

H.E. was interested in providing both wholesale and retail groceries. At first the majority of the wholesale business was to institutions but later to other businesses.

The company, known as H.E. Schmidt & Co. sold a variety of food to local customers. An ad in the paper in March 1901 listed 17 pounds of granulated sugar $1, good quality peas, five cents per can, soap three cents, and fancy California green Gage plumbs 10 cents. A few years later at Christmas time, Seal Schipt Oysters were offered as a delicacy. Grapefruit was five cents each and flour was 82 cents for 25 pounds. The store was located at 30 S. Detroit Street.

During the summer months, Schmidt would put an awning in front of the store and place merchandise under the awning, making it rather difficult to utilize the sidewalk. He left the display out day and night with a watchman to see that nothing was disturbed. This annoyed some of the other merchants, but his business continued to grow and thrive.

The three story building also had painted in large letters on the front of the building the following: Fancy Groceries, oranges, lemons, bananas, nuts.

A lengthy advertisement appeared in the Gazette in the early portion of the 20th century, extolling the virtues of the business. Part of it said: “It may be said – and justly so – that the basis for this extended reference to Mr. Schmidt and the representative enterprise which he conducts is due to the fact that after an extensive review of Xenia’s progress we find in the business career of no one single individual a more striking illustration of well-earned and well merited business success in a chosen field pf endeavor. Since 1880 when he became the directing head of the business he has by unremitting industry — for he is a tireless worker of business ability of the highest order and fair ad square dealings achieved a position in the mercantile world of this section second to none. His faith in the future importance of Xenia is emphasized by his many investments in local realty making him one of the largest property owner in the city and we may add that time has neither chilled his ardor, warped his judgement or tightened his purse strings for he has at all times been an active and liberal supporter of every feasible project which has had for its object the development and continued advancement of our home life community.”

This was a man who achieved his goals and benefited the community through his efforts as well.

Remembering J. Herman Randall

J. Herman Randall was a Cedarville businessman who operated one of the village’s feed and seed businesses in addition to farming. He was active in the Greene County Agricultural Society, serving as president of the fair board for many years. He was a 25 year Cedarville township trustee and loved raising draft horses as well. Due to his many contributions to his community, a street in Cedarville was named in his honor. A well-respected member of the community, he lived to the wonderful age of 100.

— Joan Baxter

Joan Baxter is a Greene County historian and resident.

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