With a goal to provide “good merchandise, appreciative service and low prices,” Charles Hyde (1883-1970) and David Vredenburg (1884-1949) opened a small store in Beaconsfield, Iowa, in 1930. The store was leased only a few weeks before the stock market crash of October, 1929. The two men began calling their operation Hyde & Vredenburg in 1933.
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|Charles L. Hyde |
(1883-1970), Hy-Vee cofounder
|David M. Vredenburg (1884-1949), Hy-Vee cofounder |
On January 1, 1938 the partners and 14 others incorporated 15 Iowa and Missouri stores as Hyde & Vredenburg, Inc. Dwight Vredenburg (1914-2002), the 23-year-old son of David Vredenburg, was elected the company’s first president. In addition to the stores, the company operated an office, warehouse, mill and meat plant, all located in Lamoni, Iowa; a bakery was opened later that year. Gross sales in 1938 totaled over $1 million.
Since its founding, Hy-Vee stores have operated autonomously, choosing their own inventories and setting their own prices. Store managers (now referred to as store directors) were then, and still are today, encouraged to test new ideas. One of the first such entrepreneurial concepts – employee bonuses – was introduced in 1936 and endures to this day.
|The Hyde & Vredenburg Supply/Service Stores offices in Lamoni, Iowa, where the company was headquartered from 1930 to 1945. |
Beginning in the 1930s, store managers met in the backroom of the Unionville, Missouri, store to discuss operations and plan advertising jointly, with each store manager free to alter this ad. It is a tradition that continues today with regular store director and executive staff meetings at the corporate office in West Des Moines, Iowa, to hear educational presentations, share news and vote on corporate policies.
In 1933, Hyde and Vredenburg decided to pay its store managers on a profit-sharing basis.
At the end of 1939, there were 23 stores.