By: James Pruitt
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
A family-run business which primarily serves libraries with wood shelving and cabinets is still going strong after 110 years in town.
W.C. Heller and Co., has been in Montpelier since 1906 and operates of out a factory at W. Wabash and Delaware. Four generations of Hellers have owned the business which now includes Andy, the youngest son of Bob Heller.
William C. Heller founded the business in New Jersey in 1891 and originally made hardware store fixtures. The company still makes customized fixtures. The company made the high-quality wooden fixtures for the National Hardware Association.
The company moved to Montpelier in 1906 to be closer to the lumber it used and for the railroad hub the town possessed. Due to some sales panache by the founder, the company saw sales jump meeting the demand following the Great San Francisco earthquake.
The original Heller died at age 50 and his wife took over as president. A relative ran the daily operations until Bob Heller’s dad and uncle took over.
They ran the company until the early 1960s when Bob took over.
Hellers added wooden library shelving in the early 1950s and it became the main line after a fire heavily damaged the factory in 1963.
“We decided to stay in the library business,” Bob said. “Because the hardware fixture business was going to metal and plastic.”
Since then Bob Heller’s three sons grew up with the business and all have worked for the company, but only Andy, 54, remains.
Andy runs the company now that Bob has retired. Andy said he sticks with it because it has been a part of his life for so long.
Andy also handles a lot of the sales.
The company began making and selling library shelving in the 1950s to the Bryan Library, and those shelves are still being used to this day, according to the company’s website.
The company makes custom cabinets and because it is small, it has found a niche in being able to do customized product larger companies cannot, Andy said.
Two online sites sell its products and Andy was able to find a library in Seattle online which became a customer. The company ships across the nation and recently supplied several libraries in Indiana.
“Unfortunately we don’t seem to be able to put our furniture in schools,” Bob said. Group purchasing has thwarted their efforts, he said.
The state seems to be leaning toward metal units, which has the effect of squeezing them out, Andy said.
The company has been doing quite a bit of business in Indiana recently, servicing libraries. Bob would like to be able to get into the local schools, but the state pricing formula keeps them out.
“The state writes the order specs and they lean toward metal shelving. That squeezes us out,” Andy said.
In addition to library shelving, the company makes kitchen cabinets and wood plaques for taxidermists to make trophies for hunters, Bob said.
James Pruitt may be reached at