Ben E. Keith Company History Timeline

1906 The company is founded as Harkrider-Morrison Company.
1907 The first branch was established in Wichita Falls, Texas and operated originally under the name of Wichita Produce Company.
1909 Ben E. Keith is named as the company's first salesman.
The first, Wi chita Fruit and Vegetable Company, opened in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1910.
Ben Keith quickly made himself an important part of the business, and his contribution was recognized in 1911 when the company changed its name to Harkrider-Keith-Cooke Company.
The success of the little produce firm made it possible to open a second house in Fort Worth in 1912.
West Texas would be s erved by the 1914 opening of a branch in Abilene, Texas, the Abilene Fruit and Vegetable Company.
1917 Another of the partners, W. Steve Cooke, withdrew from the company to become a co-founder in a Dodge dealership in Fort Worth and one year later C. E. Harkrider withdrew from the company.
Keith became vice-president a nd treasurer, and then in 1918, he bought a controlling interest when two of the owners dropped out.
1918 Keith acquires a controlling interest in the company.
Acquisition of Anheuser-Busch Distributorship in the 1920s.
1922 A.A. Jackson Produce was purchased and the building stables were renovated to make room for delivery trucks.
1924 A young man named Gaston Hallam joined the company after two years at Austin College.
1925 Progress enabled the thriving produce company to open an office in Lubbock, Texas to further serve the vast West Texas and New Mexico area.
1926 The Mexia Fruit and Vegetable Company was purchased and Gaston Hallam was again transferred to manager the office.
In 1928 Keith paid a personal visit to Adolphus Busch in St Louis and s ecured the Texas distributorship for Anheuser-Busch products.
1928 Although the produce business was extremely profitable during the winter months however, sales were slow in the summer.
1929 Robert D. Erwin joined the company as branch manager of the Lubbock office, steered it through the Depression, and managed to maintain a steady and profitable business.
1931 The Ben E. Keith Company name is adopted.
With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, A nheuser-Busch returned to beer brewing, and Ben E. Keith was well pos itioned to take advantage of the situation.
1933 A beer distribution business is launched.
1940 The third addition in the company s expanding product line came in the 1940s with the advent of frozen foods, which had been available on an institutional basis long before they came to the consumer market after World War II.
1941 The company needed a way to connect with households about our fresh produce in grocery stores, so the FRESH FROM KEITH S slogan was created by Mr.
In 1943 his became one of the first companies in America to offer a pension and profit-sharing plan to employees.
1959 Upon the death of Ben E. Keith, on August 17, 1959, R.D. Buddy Erwin succeeded him as president and later chairman of the board and Gaston Hallam, a major stockholder and the longest tenured employee, continued to oversee the beverage operations.
1962 Technology was advancing and during this time the first electric fork-lift was purchased along with gravity controlled conveyor belts, to help simplify our operations.
1965 Buddy retired in April 1965 and announced the promotion of Gaston Hallam to CEO.
In 1966 a Shreveport, Louisiana produce company was acquire d, and two years later The Panhandle Fruit Co. of Amarillo was bought to form another branch office.
1968 Purchased Panhandle Fruit Company in Amarillo, Texas.
Ben E. Keith moved into the Arkansas market in 1972 when it established a branch in Little Rock.
The company operated out of this Pearl Street location until a new Dallas warehouse was built 50 years later in 1972.
When Hallam retired in 1979, the company would have 1,2 00 employees and sales of 350 million.
1979 Hallam retires and his sons, Robert and Howard, take cha rge.
1980 During the 1980s, Ben E. Keith Company began to reinvent itself, transitioning from a retail produce distributor to a broad line foodservice distributor.
1981 The company begins to focus more fully on foodservice, b roadening its offerings beyond produce.
1981 Ben E. Keith Foods reached over 100 million in sales.
While in Fort Worth he ascended to the office of General Manager of the Produce Operations where he remained until he became President of Ben E. Keith Foods until his retirement in 1982.
1983 The Johnston Fruit Company in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma was purchased and became the Oklahoma Distribution Center.
To address this problem the com pany created a redistribution system out of Fort Worth, called Keith Central Distribution KCD . In 1984 KCD set up operations in an 18,00 0-square-foot warehouse.
1985 Ben E. Keith Foods purchased two more companies, Monroe Frozen Foods in Shreveport, Louisiana and CMD Produce in Little Rock, Arkansas.
1987 Ben E. Keith Company purchased Mid-South Seafood in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Later in the decade the catalog added items such as smoked ham, turkey, and fruitcake. It grew by word of mouth and formed the basis of the Ben E. Keith Gift Division, which by 1990 had a mailing list of 100,000 names, speciali zed in gourmet specialty foods, and generated 2 million in annua l sales.
In July 1993 it began expanding its Denton w arehouse.
1993 Ben E. Keith Foods reached over 250 million in sales.
In 2000, Ben E. Keith Food sales reached over 600 million.
To keep apace wi th demand, the company in 2003 began to build a 20 million wareh ouse in Amarillo, expanding the current operation from 61,000 square feet to about 250,000 square feet.
2003 Major expansion on Amarillo and Oklahoma City foodservic e facilities is begun.
They combined to generate sales of 1.5 b illion in 2004, a 12.4 percent increase over the previous year.
2008 Ben E. Keith Beverages launches the Ben E. Keith Specialty Division.
Company Founded
Fort Worth, TX
Company Headquarter
Ben Keith
Company Founders

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