Retail Observer

October 2019

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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Page 29 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM OCTOBER 2019 30 UNIVERSITY ELECTRIC TURNS 100 I n 1906 a 15-year-old farm boy left his native Germany to live with family in the U.S. and pursue the American Dream. Jacob Heintz's brother, Michael, had invited him to come and work for his San Francisco bakery. However, the bakery was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, and would only later be reestablished in San Jose. Meanwhile, Jacob stayed with another brother, Theodore Heintz, in New Jersey. Theodore was also a baker and trained Jacob in the profession. Sometime around 1914, Jacob finally moved to San Jose and subsequently started high school in Santa Clara at age 24. Jacob was drafted into the U.S. Army during the First World War and served overseas until the war ended. Upon returning home he became friends with Dean Sullivan who had joined the electrical engineering program at Santa Clara University and offered Jacob a spot in this new industry. Jacob began his college education in 1919 and founded University Electric at the same time. We don't know the precise date or exactly what the business was doing, but the industry was currently dealing with electric lighting, farm equipment (e.g., electric motors and pumps) and the canning industry. Jacob graduated from Santa Clara University in May 1923 and married his sweetheart, Ruth Jones, the same week. Major companies that made electric lights and motors, such as General Electric and Westinghouse, were starting to produce small electrical appliances such as electric frying pans and toasters, and these manufacturers came to the electrical contracting business to see if they were interested in becoming sales outlets. And so University Electric opened its retail division. The business would change over the years; besides selling refrigerators and washing machines, radio and television would make their appearance. Jacob passed away in 1957, whereupon his son Bud took over the helm. By the early 1980s competition was making it hard to be successful selling TVs and radios, and the business changed its focus and began working with contractors in the new remodeling industry. As the remodeling business took off, more manufacturers joined, and within 10 years luxury appliances made their appearance. Between 1980 and 1990, four of Bud's sons joined the business, and today there are 10 family members working for the company, with four from the fourth generation. As the business grew, it needed to find a larger headquarters to show off the latest brands, and in 1993 it moved to its current location on Martin Avenue. University Electric faced many obstacles over the years, surviving the Great Depression, World War II, materials shortages, and difficulties holding a workforce during the war years. Urban renewal in Santa Clara saw many businesses close, and the big move in 1993 was stressful, only to be followed by the worst recession the country's history. But through it all University Electric survived and thrived. Happy 100th birthday, University Electric! R E T A I L E R M I L E S T O N E S RO

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