Henry H. Eavey (pronounced A-vee) was born in Maryland. His parents came to Greene County when he was 1 year old. Henry worked on his father’s farm until he was 18 at which time; he came to Xenia in the hope of making his fortune.
His first job was with David Hinton who owned a small grocery business on East Main Street. His salary amounted to just over $8.33 per month which included board. It seems that the boarding houses purchased groceries from Mr. Hinton in return for the cost of groceries, provided room and board for his employees. This meant that Henry moved from boarding house to boarding house moving when the grocery ill was paid in full at one house and then to another until the bill was settled.
Apparently this was not much to the lad’s liking and so he went back home. After a few months, he again decided farming was not to be his life’s work and in 1859 returned to Xenia to work in the D.A. Dean grocery.
When the call went out for men to join the Union Army, he became a member of the 94th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was injured while being held as a prisoner of war and was discharged to return to his home.
Once again, he sought employment in the grocery business this time he worked for Frank E. Arnold who had purchased the business from Mr. Dean.
In 1865, Mr. Eavey felt he had a good working knowledge of the grocery business, so he opened his own store on West Main Street. His venture was successful and in the summer of 1869 he, along with M. C. Allison and James Carson, formed a wholesale grocery business on East Main Street. By 1880 both Mr. Alison and Mr. Carson had left the business for other ventures, Mr. Allison went on to the business which became Hooven and Allison and Mr. Carson opened a wholesale grocery business in Springfield.
Eavey acquired two other partners, J. D. Steele and W. B. Harrison. The company was called Eavey and Company. Once again the business was relocated this time to a brick building on West Main Street. This building was in 1908 the scene of one of the largest and most devastating fires ever witnessed in the city.
Following the fire, a new two story building was constructed at the corner of West Third and South Detroit Streets. This location provided easy access to the railroad for shipping and receiving products from around the country, this proved to be an excellent location for the company which was growing so fast that a third story was added to the building. Other improvements were made at that time as well until the location could not be expanded further to accommodate the needs of the company,
After Mr. Steele and Mr. Harrison moved on to other business ventures, Mr. Eavey took on two new partners. William E. and H. Earl Eavey came into the business with their father. The company continued to thrive and in 1939 branched out to start a chain of independent retailers serving 180 grocers within a radius of 70 miles.
The company continued to expand with Eavey supermarkets around the Miami Valley. In Fairborn a modern one story supermarket was erected on South Central Avenue. A large store was constructed in Columbus.
In 1959, a new warehouse was opened on Bellbrook Avenue under the direction of Jack Eavey.
By 1961 the company was doing so well, it attracted the interest of Super Valu of Minneapolis. Jack Eavey, grandson of the original owner agreed to sell the holdings of the Eavey Company and the firm became known as Eavey-Super Valu. At the time the Eavey Company was serving 131 retail food outlets in western Ohio with an annual volume exceeding $50 million.
The Eavey-Super Valu Company was short lived. In 1963 signs at the Bellbrook site read “Xenia Division of Super Valu”. Other changes included C. E. Shaffer formerly president of Eavey-Super Valu became division manager, Vice Presidents Birch Bell and Robert L. Buell were named managers of the departments they headed. Joseph E. Eavey, former secretary became meat products manager and the treasurer, Robert Stewart, was transferred to the corporate office in Minneapolis.
In 1963, other management changes followed. Robert Hall became produce manager, Harold Bull, dairy-frozen foods manager, John Smith became advertising manager and Pearle Compton was warehouse superintendent. Jim David was named retail accounting manager, Richard Lovelesss, office manager and William Fowler was the date processing manager. Everett Myers was named store engineer. , The sales force was re-classified as field representative.
In 1965, Super Valu Xenia Division was serving Cedarville Super Valu, James’ Super Valu. Kennedy’s Super Valu, Shawnee Superette and Stephen’s Market in Xenia, Jordan’s Super Valu in Jamestown and Thrifty Boy Market in Bellbrook, Spring Valley Market and several groceries in Dayton.
The Bellbrook Avenue site continued to expand and by 1968 the site boasted 275,000 square feet with the division carrying about 10,000 different items.
The April 3, 1974 tornado did some damage to the distribution center when a roof was seriously damaged, but the center was up and running again in less than a month,.
The company which had been in continuous operation since 1869 is no longer in business.
The Eavey building on South Detroit stands as a reminder of how a young man with great ambition made a difference.
Joan Baxter for publication week of October 15, 2018
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.