H.D. Lee Warehouses – A Credit to Salina’s Success
Henry David Lee, founder of Lee Jeans, was an entrepreneur and great leader. Already retired from the oil business, Lee decided to go West in hopes of revitalizing his failing health. Looking for a business proposition, Lee soon discovered that there was a void of wholesale mercantile establishments in Kansas. Ignorant of this line of business, Lee surrounded himself with a lot of “honest, intelligent workers.” The Lee Mercantile Company began operation in 1889 and in just nine short years it had become the most dominant wholesale grocer and jobber in the Midwest.
Always keeping an eye open to improve his business or the town in general, Lee established several other businesses like the Kansas Ice & Cold Storage Company to handle larger shipments of perishable goods. The H.D. Lee Flour Mill (one block north) was created to make profitable use of the large amounts of grain received in trade. Dedicated to helping younger men in business, as he was once helped himself, Lee supported the Schwartz brothers with $100,000 in capital to start Lee Hardware Company. Lee’s innovative business style led to several other ventures including The Harvesters Building Company and The Farmers’ National Bank of Salina. Then in 1911, dissatisfied with a supplier in the East, Lee expanded his mercantile operation to include the first garment factory in Salina producing overalls, jackets and dungarees.
Live in Downtown Salina in the newly refurbished Lee Hardware Lofts.
Next stop: Proceed south on Santa Fe Ave. past the Bank of America building to Phillips Plaza.