James  M. Randall


February 13, 1879
VOL. 1; No. 37
from the article, SMILING SHELBYVILLE!

James M. Randall

          The establishment now run under the above name was started in October, 1862, at the residence of Mr. R. on West Washington street.  The commencement was made with, comparatively speaking, no capital at all.  One wagon, a common affair, with no top, was used in collecting produce, and was driven by the proprietor himself.  The eggs and butter were packed in an old smoke-house, and the poultry dressed in his own kitchen.  Thinking Indianapolis a good market for the sale o his produce, a commission house was opened in that city, which was run by his son, Joseph B. Randall.  A short time after the opening of this branch, the father received a business like letter from his son, in which the latter requested the immediate presence of "brother John" to look after the store in his absence.  But John did not go.  Joe was fond of company, especially the gentler sex, and it was afterwards learned that he wanted John to take care of his affairs while he went "calling."  On one occasion he called on some lady friends, who lived but a short distance from the store, leaving his business to look after itself.  He too had a caller, a volunteer clerk, one who appreciated the goods kept in stock; this caller was a cow, and on his return Joe found that his entire stock of cabbage had been disposed of.  Not being satisfied with the peculiarities of the market in that city, the store was closed, and Joe returned to this place, and in the year 1865, the business having increased considerably, it was deemed best to open a store and a room in the old Gorgas block was fitted up expressly for their business, and they opened up under the firm name of  J. B. Randall.  That they had gained a meritorious reputation was shown by the fact of Joe's going to Cincinnati and buying, on time, a thousand dollars' worth of goods of a firm to which he was an entire stranger, giving no references whatever.  After leaving that city his mind was filled with doubts as to whether or not the goods would be shipped as ordered.  But they arrived in due time, and he was justly proud of the confidence bestowed on him.  Their business grew so rapidly that another wagon was started, being run by E. S. Powell.  James M. Randall captained one of the wagons from choice, he rather liking that branch of the trade; he was very successful, but after a severe case of sunstroke, gave it up, very reluctantly.  In the year 1866, they took the agency of the Merchants Union Express Company, which afterwards consolidated with the American, which they retained for four years.  Their room not being large enough for the rapidly growing trade, they moved into the Sprague building, in the latter part of 1868, occupying the entire ground floor.  It soon became necessary to start another wagon, which was done. Thomas Ellis taking charge of the same.  In 1870, a partnership was formed with Lawyer & Hall, grain dealers, of Indianapolis, in the grain business, under the firm name of J. B. Randall & Co.  The Dodds warehouse, near the depot, was secured for this branch of the business. The traffic in grain was carried on for nearly a year, when the Lawyer & Hall part of the firm failed.  J. B. R. & Co., being considerably in debt, Joe was anxious for a settlement with his partners.  But L. & H. denied the partnership, and Mr. Randall was not long in coming to the conclusion that it would require the services of more than one "lawyer" to "haul" him out of the difficulty.  But he faced the storm manfully, and came out without wronging a man, although badly crippled.  Owing to the rascality of Lawyer & Hall, the loss of J. B. R. was so great that a change in the firm became a necessity, and his father, James M. Randall, took charge of affairs, in whose name the business is still carried on.  There being certain seasons of the year in which the demand or butter and eggs was very small, they concluded to pack these articles down for future sale, and a series of experiments was commenced to ascertain the best manner of packing.  These experiments were quite extensive, and proved very expensive also, costing them about twenty thousand dollars.  However, they finally mastered the art, and now can pack down both butter and eggs so successfully that they will keep for months.  Their rooms in the Sprague building not being sufficiently commodious for the successul prosecution of their then very large trade, the rear room in the Hamilton Mansard roof building on Jackson street, was rented, and in 1871 they moved into the same.  They soon after added another wagon, and again in 1875, another, making in all, six wagons, which visit between seven and eight hundred families every week.  Their business having increased to such proportions that more room was still necessary, in 1878, they cut an entrance way through from their Jackson street room to the one fronting on Harrison street, which was stocked expressly for the retail trade.  They now have the largest store room in the city, and do beyond a doubt, the largest business of any kind in Shelbyville, that of last year amounting to $130,000.  It requires the constant and active services of seventeen men to prosecute the business, viz:  Six men to run the wagons; two in the butter department; two coopers; two in the main store; two for the office business; one in the poultry department, and one man as traveler.  They ship vast quantities of produce to the Eastern market, averaging one car of poultry, butter and eggs each week.
          This house met with considerable opposition for a time, in the way of false representation in regard to the effect on this city, of their shipping goods to foreigh cities, some people erroneously thinking that such shipments tended to raise the price of produce in this market.  All such thoughts have long since been dispelled, and those so antagonistic to them at one time, are now their best friends.  That this house is a great benefit to the community, no thinking person would question.  Look, for a moment, at the benefits derived from having such an establishment in our midst:  It benefits the country people by buying their produce at their houses, thereby saving them both time and money (toll, etc.) in a trip to town; it benefits the country people by delivering to them goods of any description, at their very doors --- if they don't happen to have the article desired, it can be ordered and will be delivered on their next trip; it beneits the country people by assuming all risk for breakage, etc., in hauling the products to the market; and last, but not least, it benefits the country people by paying, at all times, the highest market prices for every thing they have to dispose of in the produce line, either in cash or goods --- the prices paid by this house being about one-third more than that of any other produce dealers in this or surrounding counties; it benefits the citizens of this city by being able to supply them with articles of country produce, nice and fresh, the year round, and at prices that are not ever above, and often below, the rates of the market; and against it benefits the people, at large, in that it keeps a large amount of money constantly circulating as the following figures will abundantly prove: Amount of money paid for the articles mentioned during the year 1878: Butter, $40,000; eggs $15,000; poultry $25,000; feathers $4,000; hides and tallow $2,000; rags, etc. $2,000.  In short, the business carried on by this firm is a great blessing to any community, and that it will be prosecuted with energy, ability and honesty, no one can doubt, as long as it has such a man at the head as James M. Randall, with his well disciplined help under the able management of his faithful sons, Joseph and John.
   Next biography in the newspaper article "Smiling Shelbyville", J. W. Parrish.
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