G.L. Huyett was founded in 1899 by Guy Lamson Huyett, a German immigrant who purchased the hardware stock of the Globe Department Store in Minneapolis, KS, and moved it down the block to a storefront at the corner of Second and Concord.
The business was incorporated in 1906 and is now one of the oldest continuously operated businesses in the State of Kansas. In its earliest days, G.L. Huyett was a general line retail hardware store selling common goods to the early settlers of land that was generally referred to as the “Great American Desert” in the heart of the Midwest. In the 1910’s Guy purchased a lost cargo of nails from a wrecked ship off of the coast of New Jersey. He packaged them in small boxes and sold them as “Guy’s Rusty Nails.”
Soon after, Guy started buying machinery bushings from the Ohio Nut and Washer Company in Mingo Junction, Ohio. Machinery bushings were known to be precision flat washers at the time. They were used to take up the slack on shafts in farm machinery, which were more loose fitting. At the time, machinery bushings were shipped in wooden kegs by rail.
In the early 1920’s Guy purchased an old hotel on North Concord Street, detached it from its foundation, hitched it to a team of horses, and drug it south down the street to 126 South Concord. He moved the company and his inventory into the building – now just a block from the rail spur – making it easier to unload parts from trains.
In 1930, Guy sold the business to Missouri native Henry Hahn. At the time the Company had six accounts. In 1948, Henry passed the business over to his son, Louis, who was a shrewd businessman and a notorious entrepreneur. In addition to G.L. Huyett, he also owned a gas station, drive-in restaurant, and had accumulated 2,000 acres of farmland.
To help bundle parts for customers, local residents were known to gather on Sunday afternoons under a big tree and count machinery bushings into bundles of 10’s or 25’s and wire them up while sipping whiskey. This group was affectionately known as the “South Side Sunday Sipper’s Society,” or the “SSSSS.”
In the mid 1970’s, Louis’ son Bob began working with the Company part-time. Bob worked for Mobil Oil Company as a salesperson after graduating from the University of Kansas in 1961 and a three-year stint with the U.S. Navy. While traveling in North Dakota, he met Dolly Marsh, and they married in 1968 in Hawaii. In 1972 Bob starting teaching business at St. Cloud State Community College, where he counted among his pupils, Will Oberton, former President and CEO of Fastenal Company, a leading industrial distributor, and later, an important customer of G.L. Huyett.
In summers, Bob took to the road to develop new relationships, acquire new customers, and expand G.L. Huyett’s product lines to include, among other things, pins, key stock, grease fittings, and snap rings.
In 1980, G.L. Huyett was ceded to Bob and Dolly. Together the husband and wife team instilled heart and soul into the operation. Under their guidance, the Company prospered.
By 1981 Bob had built up the business well enough that he and Dolly moved back to Salina, Kansas, and worked at G.L. Huyett full time. Bob worked days packing and shipping orders and answering the phone; Dolly worked nights pounding out invoices on a Smith Corona typewriter. Sometimes Bob would meet Dolly going to bed while Dolly was arising to start typing.
Dolly had a good mind for finance and a propensity towards thrift. In fact, some customers were known to “appreciate” Dolly’s penny-pinching ways and would mail coins taped to postcards so that Dolly would stop calling to collect for small billing differences.
During the ‘80s, Bob and Dolly hired their first full-time employee, Greg Pieschl – a local resident, who was responsible for warehouse operations including inventory receipt, putaway, and order fulfillment.
By 1991 Bob and Dolly had achieved annual sales of $1 million. Bob recalls showing his father Louis his books for a year, and Louis could not believe it. The high volume was taking a toll on Bob and Dolly’s health, with both of them working eighty or more hours per week. So, in 1992 they sold the business to Tim and Carol O’Keeffe.