The Working Life

Despite today’s lackluster economy, three local businesses have found a way to shine — and thrive — for a century or more

We all know that businesses have been making headlines lately — for all the wrong reasons. From AIG’s corporate implosion to General Motors’ bankruptcy woes, there’s not much to cheer about on Wall Street — or Main Street, where many once-thriving shops now sport “for sale” signs. But a number of Valley firms are bucking that trend. Here’s a snapshot of three family-owned companies that have been plying their trade for 100 years or more.

• In May 1909, Matthew Herzog opened a store in Kingston that sold paint and wallpaper, and framed pictures. He had one employee, and made deliveries to his customers using a horse-drawn wagon. Sales that first year totaled just over $7,000. Today, the Herzog Supply Company — a giant home-improvement business run by Matthew’s great-grandsons, Brad and Todd Jordan — sells everything from plants to power tools, kitchen cabinets to caulk (to the tune of $20 million a year).

The secret of their success? “Our people,” says Brad Jordan. “We have many key employees, some of whom owned their own businesses at one time. They appreciate the fights you have to fight every day.”

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Ginsberg’s Foods started when Sam Ginsberg — an immigrant from Eastern Europe — opened a grocery store and meat market in Hudson in 1909. In the 1960s, son Morton — who took over for his dad after World War II — realized that folks were eating out more often than they had in the past. Loading up the family station wagon, he began delivering food in bulk to local restaurants. Now, the Valley’s largest independent food distributor — which operates in six states and employs 225 people — is managed by Morton’s son, David, and his wife Nancy. (One of Ginsberg’s best customers, Jack’s Oyster House in Albany, is a family-run business that will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2013.)

• At 116 years of age, Zimmer Brothers Jewelers is a granddaddy among local firms. Founder Thomas Zimmer became an apprentice jeweler at 14; after working in Manhattan for one of Tiffany & Company’s suppliers, he opened his own jewelry shop on Poughkeepsie’s Garden Street. The year was 1893. Four generations of Zimmer family members have overseen this high-end jewelry, watch, and gift store (now located on the city’s Raymond Avenue, just across the street from Vassar College — which, incidentally, has been handing out diplomas since 1861).

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