This is how old Kershaw’s Inc. is: The downtown Spokane office-supply company was 8 years old when the Chicago Cubs won their last World Series in 1908.
When Frederick Kershaw founded Western Typewriter in 1900, the U.S. population was 75 million, less than a quarter of today’s 320 million. William McKinley was the 25th president and was two years removed from leading the nation to victory in the Spanish-American War. Wilbur and Orville Wright were still three years away from making their historic flight.
Despite all that has changed, current Kershaw’s owners Damien and Diane Mangano say their business, at 119 S. Howard, is as strong as ever.
The Manganos say Kershaw’s posts revenues of several million dollars a year, declining to be more specific. With 15 employees, the company sells office supplies ranging from sticky notes to furniture.
Damien Mangano says customer service is important. “Service is everything, it’s not always about price,” Mangano says. “We have always stayed in constant contact with our customers to make sure they are getting what they need. You can order off Amazon, but if it doesn’t suit what you’re looking for, you’ll return it. That’s where we come in. We’re here and can help you figure it out,” Mangano says.
Diane Mangano says revenues have been robust the last two years, particularly due to an increase in office furniture sales. She also cites recent office supply store buyouts at a national level that have helped Kershaw’s.
“Office Depot bought out Office Max, now Staples is trying to buy out Office Depot,” Mangano says. “We’ve benefited from that because local businesses have started shopping around looking for other office suppliers to meet their needs,” she says.
“But we just keep poppin’ along,” Mangano says. And “Poppin’ through the Years” was the theme of a Kershaw’s customer appreciation party and product show last week that drew 400 people.
The event unveiled a newly completed remodel of two levels of the four-story Hughes Building that Kershaw’s owns. Two showroom floors include a combined total of 20,000 square feet of office space. The Hughes Building, constructed in 1895, has a total of 50,000 square feet.
Kershaw’s is a member of the TriMega Purchasing Association based in Rosemont, Ill. TriMega is a nonprofit, member-owned cooperative that concentrates on helping independent office supply dealerships compete against big-box retailers. TriMega’s website says it has nearly 600 members whose annual sales range from $1 million to $100 million.
Damien Mangano says TriMega membership has helped improve Kershaw’s buying power and online presence. However, the majority of its customer base remains local. Kershaw’s has contracts with both the city of Spokane and Spokane Public Schools for their office supply needs.
“Our customer base is as varied as the businesses in Spokane,” Diane Mangano says. “Small businesses rely on us up to the city, the school … We recently sold furnishings to Spokane Community College.”
In 1923, Frederick Kershaw changed the company’s name from Western Typewriter to Kershaw’s Inc., company records indicate.
Charles and Mildred Yenney, Kershaw’s daughter and son-in-law, bought the company in 1952, and Wesley Melior, who had been employed by Kershaw’s since 1930, bought the business in 1962. Rudy Cozzetto, Diane Mangano’s father, bought Kershaw’s in 1973.
The company had hired Cozzetto in 1955, and he became vice president in 1966. Kershaw’s grew to include three retail stores, a furniture showroom, and a machine department, and printing department during Cozzetto’s tenure as owner, Diane Mangano says.
In 1986, a national chain called NBI’s The Office Place bought Kershaw’s from Cozzetto. However, that company went out of business, and Cozzetto purchased the Kershaw’s name in 1990. He moved the retail store from another location to the current downtown site, Mangano says.
Now, Diane is president and Damien serves as vice president.
The Manganos worked together to rebuild the company’s customer base before purchasing it from Cozzetto in 1993. The couple says they want to see the company remain local and family owned.
Their daughter and son-in-law, Melissa and Alex King, and their youngest daughter, Sara, are in position to own and operate the company in the future.
Excluding the defunct national chain, each Kershaw’s business owner was either local or related to the prior owner. Damien Mangano says he thinks that has played a significant role in the company not only staying in business but profiting as well.
Of the couple’s children, he says, “There was a time when they were younger that they didn’t want to have anything to do with running the business. That has changed. They have all brought a breath of fresh air to the business, especially in the way of using social media to promote and grow the business. Diane and I weren’t into any of that, but they’ve brought us into the 21st century.”
The look and feel of Kershaw’s is also very much 21st century, Mangano says.
“Office furnishings and designs have come such a long way,” he says. “There are times Diane and I come in here and we think, ‘It’s so comfortable in here, we should live here.’ ’’
Business owners are taking their employees’ health into consideration more than ever, he says.
Kershaw’s showroom floor reveals the latest ergonomic work stations; desktops that can be controlled by a switch so the user can raise and lower them to avoid sitting in one position all day.
“Cubicles are disappearing. Businesses want their staffs working more collaboratively which means opening office spaces,” Mangano says. “You walk in offices now and see people standing up doing the work. That’s just better for your body.”
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