Oliver C. Jensen, Danish by birth, founded Jensen Hardware in Sprague, Washington, in 1883. Partner Charles King made it Jensen-King.
The partners moved to Spokane in 1895 after a building fire in Sprague. Then they bought out Wolverton-Byrd, to become Jensen-King-Byrd Hardware.
The company had a busy store on the 300 block of West Riverside, eventually occupying two side-by-side buildings: one three-story, one six-story.
Their early business was based on horseshoe nails, but the store sold hardware, wood stoves, common and exotic lumber, housewares, horse tack and many other products.
In 1925, Jensen’s sons bought out King and renamed it Jensen-Byrd Hardware.
For more than 60 years, farmers, tradesmen, do-it-yourselfers and housewives shopped at the store on Riverside Avenue. The company had multiple warehouse facilities.
The senior Jensen died in 1928.
The Marshall-Wells company, founded in 1886 in Duluth, Minnesota, became a major grocery and hardware distributor in the region. In 1909, the company built a six-story warehouse, designed by architect Albert Held, on Main Avenue, east of Division Street. It was one of 14 regional warehouses in the Northwest.
In 1931, the company took over Holley-Mason Hardware and its building on Howard Street. As the Great Depression deepened, the company leased their Main Avenue warehouse to the federal government around 1934 as storage for the U.S. Forest Service, the Civilian Conservation Corps and other agencies. The government stored tools, tents and supplies for work crews and foresters for a dozen years.
After World War II, the company ended the government lease and, with trucks rolling back and forth around the clock, the Marshall-Wells hardware inventory and the government warehouse traded places in 1946.
In 1958, the Marshall-Wells company was bought out by Coast to Coast Hardware and Jensen-Byrd bought the Spokane warehouse. At the same time, the Jensens shut down their storefront after 75 years of retail sales in order to to focus on wholesale distribution.
In the mid-1980s, Jensen-Byrd built a new warehouse on the West Plains. Later, the 1909 warehouse became part of WSU Spokane, though its future plans are still up in the air.
Jensen-Byrd became Jensen Distribution Services in 1995, and distributes 65,000 products to 2,000 retailers in 11 western states.
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