Blog News

100 years in the baking – abandoned couches

Ed and Larry Benson

Ed Benson simply returned from World Conflict II, where he dodged bombs and prepped planes in North Africa, when his dad (and when he talks about Howard Benson, he typically says “my dad”) informed him he needed to report back to baking faculty.

“When I came back from the service I went to Chicago for six months to the American Baking Association. My dad wanted me up there, he said you’re going to work hard but the first six months you’re going up there and learn the intricacies of baking,” Ed says, remembering 1946 prefer it was yesterday. “I was never a baker but I learned enough of the fundamental science that the salespeople couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes.”

Ed understood. He discovered.

Years later when Ed’s son, Larry, was in grade faculty, he would rise at 5:30 and sit by the curb ready for the Benson’s bread man to select him up.

“We delivered bread all morning to restaurants and retail grocery stores, I would help him carry the bread in, I helped him load his truck, I’d sit down and have coffee with him and his customers,” Larry says. “One of my other jobs was to sweep out the garage where the trucks loaded up. I remember throwing sweeping compound on the floor and it soaks up whatever is on the floor, so you could tell where you swept. I learned how hard the jobs were and learned how hard people worked. I grew up and learned from example.”

Larry understood. He discovered.

For 100 years the Benson household has been in business in Athens and deeply invested in the group, all the while retaining shut ties with the College of Georgia. These connections grew even stronger this fall as Benson Corridor joins Amos Hall and Moore-Rooker Corridor in Part II at Terry School’s Business Studying Group. The building is known as in honor of the patriarch W. H. “Howard” Benson, his son H.E. “Ed” Benson and grandson Larry R. Benson.

The primary function throughout Benson Hall is lecture rooms: six giant areas where educating takes place.

Students go there to know. College students go there to study.

• • •

A enterprise’s historical past rests in the talents of its individuals. For Ed, who has the advantage of seeing Benson’s from its infancy to its centennial, the success of his family enterprise is straightforward.

“My dad was the entrepreneur, I was the manager and (Larry) was the marketer,” says Ed, chairman emeritus of Benson’s Inc. “You don’t give up. Hard work, leave your ego at home and take a basket of humility.”

In 1918 Howard Benson moved his household from Marietta and bought a retailer specializing in baking, ice cream and candy on West Hancock Avenue in Athens. There he’d bake up breads and muffins in a small brick oven fired with cordwood and deliver them to routes in Winder, Jefferson and different small towns in North Georgia. In the first week of business, Benson’s Bakery boasted two horses, two wagons and a Ford truck — and took in $72.70 in gross sales.

Ed was born in 1921 (his sister Beverly in 1920), and Howard began buying up bakeries in Georgia towns — Milledgeville, Elberton, Gainesville. In Athens, Howard staged a citywide parade and celebration in 1924, with barbecue, music, “feature pictures” and a lecture from an area physician on youngsters’s well being. In 1927, Benson’s was included, and thriving (now with seven vans). They stated downtown Athens was full of the odor of Benson’s baked bread.

However the Great Melancholy hit and dealt a blow to Benson’s. A document of “General Information” in the Benson archives at UGA’s Hargrett Library reads “Wall Street Market collapsed in 1929, followed by four years of horrible depression over the whole nation. We went broke, and far below.”

Broke, but by no means broken.

“My dad was a master marketer and a master salesperson and a master of ‘everything was going to be all right,’ it didn’t matter what it was,” Ed says. “He had optimism.”

The bakery stored going, ensuring to profit the group around it. Benson’s “authorized the Athens Salvation Army to pick up any number of loaves of bread necessary to see that no child in Athens went to bed hungry,” the doc reads. “He would give to anybody that came by, it was just in him,” Ed says. “He literally did open the doors to anybody that was hungry.”

By the mid-1930s, the bakery was back on financial monitor and Ed, who graduated from Athens Excessive in 1938, didn’t should assume exhausting on where to go to school.

“I was living at home. It was never any thought for me to go anywhere else,” Ed says of attending UGA.

A business major and letterman on the UGA golf group, Ed was in a fraternity and “really enjoyed school.” However the country was on the cusp of warfare, pointing Ed in the path of ROTC where he educated to be a pilot. “I did University of Georgia civilian pilot training connected with ROTC and got about 200 hours of flying time and graduated as a shavetail, second lieutenant. I went from UGA in June of ’42 to the 48th Fighter Squadron.”

Nicknamed the Alley Cats, the 48th Fighter Squadron educated in California, and for Ed the trip west marked his first time being distant from residence. While his plan to be a pilot didn’t work out, he was an excellent trainee and have become an assistant intelligence officer and was sent to England earlier than taking a transport ship to Oran, Algeria.

He remained with the squadron because it went to Morocco, Tunisia and Italy, where he helped the Allies’ planes prepare for attacks on enemy targets. He returned stateside in Might 1944, instructing pilots transferring to the Pacific Theater, and left lively obligation in late 1945 as a captain. He got here house to a household business pulling in the most income it ever made.

During the conflict, Ed sent his paycheck to his dad who used that money to purchase a boarding home at the corner of Wray and Hull streets. Ed was a landowner, not understanding at the time that parcel of land would years later propel his business into a brand new and fruitful enterprise.

However first, baking faculty.

• • •

The recipe is straight-forward, when you have the gear — 72 pounds of flour, 33 pounds of shortening, 80 kilos of pecans, 20 pounds each of golden, purple and inexperienced pineapple, 33 pounds of entire eggs, 150 kilos of white raisins, 77 kilos of cherries. Add sugar (40 pounds), water, and 65 pounds of “special fruit” (there are some secrets and techniques) and you have a big batch of Previous Residence Fruit Cake.

You’ll be able to’t inform the story of Benson’s without the fruitcake.

What began as a money-making enterprise for the Christmas holidays by the Athens Jaycees turned a nationwide sales campaign reaching every state, making hundreds of thousands of dollars for civic organizations and giving almost 600 school students one in every of the greatest summer time jobs of their lives. And it was all as a result of Ed Benson was as much as the problem.

Ed took over the company from his dad in 1958, however as the bakery’s common manager in 1953 debuted the fruitcake fundraising venture, building it from a program selling to North Georgia communities to at least one reaching California. An enormous advert campaign to promote a “good cake for a good cause” was found in a bevy of magazines — Reader’s Digest, Women’ Residence Journal, Ebony — however it was the Benson Fleet, led by dozens of school males, who introduced the fruitcake to the plenty.

It began with a couple of UGA college students one summer time in the mid-1950s and have become a summer time crew of 50 robust by the mid-1960s, with as many as 250 school college students applying for the job annually. After a weeklong coaching session, the 50 young men (the majority from UGA) received in their leased Fords or Chevrolets and hit the street for 10 weeks to sell as many orders of fruitcake as they might.

“You’re all out there on your own and you’ve got to manage your life, your work and get the job done by yourself,” says David Breedlove (ABJ ’68), who labored as a fruitcake salesman for three summers. “I have to believe that 95 percent of the people who went out on the road had great experiences and good memories of it all.”

Now in highschool, Larry graduated from sweeping flooring to hitting the street to promote fruitcake as properly. During the summers of 1964 and ’65 he joined a university scholar on ventures to Northern California and Virginia.

“We sold a lot of fruitcake,” Larry remembers. “Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, youth groups, anybody that sold a product to raise funds during the holiday, we had fruitcake for them.”

“When the fruitcake program came in we started growing literally 15 to 20 percent a year,” Ed says. “Fruitcake was great. During those times you could knock on a door, and we had 50 young men that went out and did just that all over the United States.”

These occasions of knocking on doors would taper off, but one other would open, because of a land funding made by Howard many years before.

• • •

“I’ll never forget this, I came off the golf course and went to see Jimmy (Dudley) and I said, ‘Would you like to get in the hotel business with me?’” Ed recollects from a second 60 years in the past. “I said, ‘I’ve got another good friend Harold Crow in the poultry business and you got a good brother and you have a good architect’ and we divvied it up.”

In the decade since first shopping for the boarding home in 1946, the Benson family purchased further land in the area of Hull and Wray streets as tons turned obtainable. In September 1960, the lot turned the Holiday Inn, a 66-room motor lodge that is still in enterprise to today (albeit with 143 extra rooms on a wider swath of property).

It’s the oldest constantly run Vacation Inn franchise in North America.

Benson’s was one among several businesses thriving in Athens at the time, and Ed was in a continuing state of eager to study extra. Corporations akin to Westinghouse and Basic Time set up in Athens, and their managers have been “real managers, real citizens that got into the community,” Ed remembers, they usually provided him recommendation he heeds to today.

“They said to me, and this is a direct quote, ‘Ed, you are a good boy, but you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re growing but if you want to keep growing you’ve got to learn management, professional management, join the American Management Association. You have to join other meetings. You have to get out of Clarke County and see what’s going on,’” Ed says. “And I took them literally and from that time have been a management nut for the rest of my life.”

It’s why, when a number of years later as Benson’s was trying to increase, Ed made a cope with his lodge companions to take over their portion of the business — “We worked it out,” he says, “Benson’s would buy them out and everyone would get the same amount.”

Ed turned a robust voice in the group. A speech he made as Athens Chamber of Commerce president in 1966 centered on the future of Athens, making a firm call for higher schooling, particular person motion and a modernization of downtown. The Athens Banner-Herald referred to as the speech “one of the most important of these times” noting Ed was “a man who loves his community and not only wants the very best for it but is willing to shoulder more than his share of the responsibility for it.”

In 1971 Howard died at the age of 83. The day after he died, the Banner-Herald wrote an editorial about him, in which it noted “It would be difficult to name any service organization in Athens and the surrounding area which at some time has not benefited by his concern.”

Like father, like son.

• • •

About this time Larry was ending his diploma at UGA — “My dad said I could not come to the bakery and ascend to any kind of responsibility unless I had a college degree,” he remembers — and in 1974 was sent to Greenville, S.C., to run the thrift stores Benson’s had in the space. After getting control of them, he returned to Georgia and did the similar for the thrift stores in Athens and Atlanta and was named the Atlanta Route Gross sales Supervisor. “I took over the thrift store and routes there and grew the business from four to six routes to 18 routes in a few years’ time and achieved our goal.”

Larry left Benson’s in 1978, although, to work for different corporations and get “away from being the boss’s son.” He did that for a number of years, working at a bakery in Lakeland, Fla., and a milk and ice cream enterprise in Albany, however got here residence in 1983 to develop into a bakery supervisor at the Benson’s plant in Bogart. The following years brought the finish of Benson’s wholesale enterprise, the divesting of the Greenville bakery and the reorganization of the Bogart facility.

In 1992 Larry took the reins of the company, and used his expertise to move it into unchartered territory.

“My niche or expertise is in the marketing or sales business and going out and selling something to people, selling the quality, selling the service, selling the value,” Larry says.

And sensing a chance.

In the mid-1990s a serious national retailer was trying to get into the grocery business and wanted an angel meals cake. “We made some special angel food cake for them,” Larry says. “We showed it to them, they liked what they saw, they liked how it tasted, so we got their business.”

They nonetheless promote angel food cake to that retailer — and pound cake and fruitcake too. When different main retailers decided to end their in-store bakeries, Benson’s gained their business as properly.

Then there were the resorts. Benson’s bought the Ramada Inn down Broad Road from the Vacation Inn, and reworked it into the Holiday Inn Categorical. The land where the previous Benson’s Bakery sat downtown turned the Hilton Garden Inn, an ideal lodge to enrich the new Basic Middle across the road. In 2008 a SpringHill Suites by Marriott was constructed in Oconee County, and subsequent yr another SpringHill Suites will open across the road from the Vacation Inn.

Lots has modified in the 100 years since Howard Benson began promoting bread and desserts — however for the Bensons, the locale has not. They invested in the Athens group as much as Athens invested in them.

“The things in my life that have counted have been my family, my church, our business, community service and Rotary and the University of Georgia,” Ed says. “These are the fundamentals. We have had the benefit of good luck and good health while living in the sweet spot of the United States.”

• • •

On a current summer time morning, Ed Benson led the approach on a tour of his Bogart bakery. He stopped to shake the palms of several staff as he made his approach via the rooms, the place muffins have been combined, baked, cooled, reduce, packaged and boxed. He marveled at the focus of  the work groups, who from room to room worked with environment friendly precision. In one room, the place staff deftly packaged four totally different slices of pound cake into one container at a fee of 15,000 in a 10-hour shift, he stopped and stated “would you look at that?”

At 96 he remains interested in the world. And typically stunned.

Benson Hall was a shock to Ed. “That was Larry,” he says. “I had no idea he was doing this thing to honor me.”

Ed has been a continuing half and associate with UGA, leading numerous boards and committees, providing up his time and experience, and in the late 1960s chairing the annual campaign that, at the time, brought in the most donations UGA ever had in one yr (“$750,000,” Ed remembers with amusing). His service earned him the school’s 1969 Distinguished Alumni Award, the 1984 Abraham Baldwin Award and the 1992 Alumni Benefit Award from the Alumni Society.

“From 1955 until now I have never been out of touch with the University of Georgia,” Ed says. “They have been grand for us, and I hope that we’ve been able to help them.”

Benson Hall sits on Lumpkin Road, and heading up the hill from it you find the Holiday Inn. Around the nook are two more motels constructed by the Bensons, while the unique residence of Benson’s Bakery is just blocks away. In a couple of blocks is 100 years of household historical past, with Benson Corridor a beacon for centuries more.

“I wanted to invest in Terry College because of my dad and for my grandfather,” Larry says. “He didn’t want the recognition and I informed him ‘I want to do this for you’ and he stated, ‘Well I want my father to have some recognition for this good deed and I want you to have some recognition for this good deed.’ But I did it for him as a result of he gave me the opportunity.

“My grandfather had the confidence in his son to give him the opportunity and dad has always been supportive of me through the good times and the bad times. He has never given up on me. He has been there for me forever and I wanted to invest in this opportunity for his legacy, for his service to the University, to the community, for giving people an opportunity to grow and prosper and be happy and financially secure.”