S. S. Kresge
Appearance in his mid-50s
Sebastian Spering Kresge
July 31, 1867
|Died||October 18, 1966 (aged 99)|
|Alma mater||Eastman Business College|
Sebastian Spering Kresge (July 31, 1867 - October 18, 1966) was an American businessman. He created and owned two chains of department stores, the S. S. Kresge Company, one of the 20th century's largest discount retail organizations, and the Kresge-Newark traditional department store chain. The discounter was renamed the Kmart Corporation in 1977 and evolved into today's Sears Holdings Corporation, parent of Kmart and Sears.
Kresge was born near Allentown, Pennsylvania, the son of Sebastian Kresge and the former Catherine Kunkle. Living on the family farm in Kresgeville (named for his ancestors) until he was 21 years old, he was educated in the local public schools, the Fairview Academy, in Brodheadsville, Pennsylvania, and at the Eastman Business College in Poughkeepsie, New York, from which he graduated in March 1889.
Following his graduation, he clerked in a hardware store for two years, then worked as a traveling salesman from 1892 to 1897. On March 20, 1897, Kresge began working for James G. McCrory, the founder of J.G. McCrory's, at a five and ten cent store in Memphis, Tennessee. He continued there for two years.
In 1899 he founded his own company, with Charles J. Wilson, with an $8,000 investment in two five-and-ten-cent stores; one was in downtown Detroit, Michigan, for which he traded ownership in McCrory's. In 1912, he incorporated the S.S. Kresge Company with 85 stores. The company was first listed on the New York Stock Exchange on May 23, 1918. During World War I, Kresge experimented with raising the limit on prices in his stores to $1.
In 1923, he started a new company, buying out a large traditional department store in Newark, New Jersey. He renamed the store Kresge-Newark, expanded it, and started branch stores. The new department store company was completely independent from the S.S. Kresge discount department store company. By 1924, Kresge was worth approximately $375,000,000 ($5,000,000,000 in 2009 dollars) and owned real estate of the approximate value of $100,000,000.
He was married and divorced at least twice by 1928. Kresge and his family were members of Detroit's North Methodist Episcopal Church. He held membership in numerous organizations including four Masonic lodges and the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, the Young Men's Christian Association, the Detroit Athletic, Boat, and Golf Clubs, Rotary, and various commercial and automobiling societies.
Kresge died on October 18, 1966, at the age of 99.
The first Kmart opened in 1962 in Garden City, Michigan. Kresge died in 1966. In 1977, the S. S. Kresge Corporation changed its name to the Kmart Corporation. In 2005, Sears Holdings Corporation became the parent of Kmart and Sears, after Kmart bought Sears, and formed the new parent.
In 1924, Kresge established The Kresge Foundation, a non-profit organization whose income he specified simply "to promote the well-being of mankind". By the time of his death, Kresge had given the foundation over $60,000,000. A strongly committed prohibitionist, he organized the National Vigilance Committee for Prohibition enforcement and also heavily supported the Anti-Saloon League financially, though he later stopped contributions. By 2018, the Foundation's endowment had grown to $3.6 billion.
Numerous places have been named after Kresge:
Sebastian Spering Kresge, founder of the S.S. Kresge Company's network of 930 general merchandise stores throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, died today. ...