RAILCAR GOLD Chapter 22 . . Diversify . . Part 1
RAILCAR GOLD is a historically accurate multi-generational fictional tale of hidden treasure, primarily set in York County, Pennsylvania during the latter half of the Nineteenth Century. This is Part 1 of Chapter 22 . . . Diversify. A new part will be posted every Thursday. Recent chapters stand alone, starting here; however new readers may want to start at the beginning.
CHAPTER 22 . . . DIVERSIFY . . . Part 1
Eli J. Miller had been looking for an investor to start a Clothier and Tailoring business in York. With the Billmeyer & Small factory-loading wavering with increasing regularity, George S. Billmeyer thought the time was right to diversify into other businesses; so he partnered with Eli Miller.
E. J. Miller & Company opened at 8 West Market Street. They advertised their business as a Clothier Merchant with Boots, Shoes & Tailoring. The boots and shoes part of the business was a carry over from a small shoe dealership previously conducted by Eli Miller.
Dan told George, “I shop at your clothing store.” This in response to George Billmeyer complaining, “It seems all I ever do is pour money into buying inventory for Miller’s store. It sits in the store for months. Then they have a sale to make room for new inventory. Only problem is, more often then not, most items are sold below cost to get rid of them. Eli tells me to be patient; that it takes time to build up a regular customer base.”
George Billmeyer stuck by Eli Miller, even though he continued to lose money in this venture. However when Eli’s son and a clerk in the store were convinced they had fresh ideas, they offered to buy him out. George immediately accepted. The new venture initially became E. J. Miller Son & Company. Then after Eli retired, the firm took the name W. H. & H. M. Miller; which returned to their roots, concentrating exclusively on selling shoes and boots; a business that prospered.
George Billmeyer regularly purchased feed for their horses at the Grist Mill in Stony Brook where Emma grew up. Emma’s uncle Henry C. Hauser now ran that Mill and his Mill Warehouse out along the Turnpike. George and Emma were visiting Henry and his wife Nancy shortly after George got out of the clothing business.
George asked, “My forte into the retail clothing trade did not work out. Are there any up and coming business prospects out here in the countryside?”
Henry told George, “Several of Nancy’s relatives are thinking about selling quarries they have started between Stony Brook and Hellam. Their quarrying operations are very small because they have trouble attracting customers away from more established quarries. Billmeyer & Small already has a heavy customer base with their lumber business, selling construction stone should attract part of that same customer base; it might make a good fit. I can introduce you if you’re interested.”
George was enthusiastic, “I never thought about that line of business. I agree it might be a good fit with our existing customer base. Thanks for the tip and the help with the contacts. I’ll plan to bring my brother-in-law along; he has quarry experience. I’ll left you know when we’re available to look over the quarries.”
John E. Baker took a job as a salesman for the Standard Lime & Stone Company after he married George’s sister Mary. On a Saturday, George and John looked over the small quarries west of Hellam. Afterwards, John Baker told George, “Those sites have potential, however the price those owners have set is really quite high; especially when compared to the current price of crushed stone. I know of an already developed quarry with an existing lime kiln. It is about to go on the market in Wrightsville; that would make a better investment.”
George and John viewed the quarry and operations of the C. S. Budding & Company in the northern part of Wrightsville. In 1889, George S. Billmeyer and John E. Baker formed a 50-50 partnership. They named the firm the Wrightsville Lime Company.
For $10,000, their new company purchased the assets and liabilities of C. S. Budding & Company. They were instantly in the lime business; selling to farmers to fertilize their fields and selling lime for whitewashing and plastering. Under John Baker’s control, the business was immediately profitable.
Go to Part 2