Wednesday, April 15, 2009

In Memory of Bob Newman

In a typical small to midsize business you keep your focus on what is in front of you and where you want to take the company, but it is healthy to look in the rearview mirror to remember where you came from. I am reminded of this now every time I walk through our lobby. With the recent passing of my grandfather, Robert “Bob” Newman (1922 – 2009), a piece of our family business history comes back to our office.

In 1880 my great-great grandfather, Harry Newman, decided to leave Amour Soap Works and started Newman Tallow & Soap Company. With this new endeavor he purchased a brand new roll-top desk which represented a good foundation to build his new company on.

In the 1950’s, a falling-out in the family pushed for the liquidation of Newman Tallow and Soap Machinery in favor of expanding Loeb Equipment. At that time, one of the mechanics grabbed my grandfather and showed him something covered in a dusty cloth tucked away in the boiler room. It was my great-great grandfather’s original roll-top desk – the desk which acted as a foundation for now what is LOEB. After being forced to pay heavily for it during the liquidation, it wound up as his desk for many years in his house.

Upon the passing of my grandfather, I inherited this wonderful heirloom desk and felt the only appropriate thing to do was bring it back to the Loeb office. Shortly after its arrival, other things started to pop up reminding us of the olden days of LOEB – old premiums such as Zippo lighters and pen knives that LOEB gave away during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, a Chicago phone book from 1922 that has my great great-great grandfather listed under Soap Equipment dealers, and an original photograph of our State Street building from the turn of the century. The photo is a little small but you can see that State Street is still paved with cobblestone. I am reminded of how much times have changed and in many ways, especially during this economic climate, how similar they are to where we have been in the past.

This desk has substantial meaning to me, as it represents 5 generations of hard work and dedication. It represents the history of LOEB. Every day as I walk past it in the lobby, I am reminded the importance of our long past and how far LOEB has come. We have been through tough economic times and assisted customers in downsizing their facilities and have been around to help when the time came for our customers to expand. And here we are today.

I miss my grandfather and having this desk in our office reminds me of the solid, hard working foundation that LOEB was created on 130 years ago. Five generations later, I am proud that the “foundation” hasn’t changed.

And I believe my grandfather is proud as well.