The year was 1925 (May 18 to be exact) when Harry S. Hedrick and Evanda Hugh Sweet incorporated Home Builders Supply. The two men had joined a year earlier to open the business at the height of the Florida land boom when new residents descended on the state demanding lumber and building supplies.
Hedrick had been involved with lumber and building. Sweet, originally from Georgia, had been working as an accountant at Winter Haven Planning Mills.
The store was located near Downtown Winter Haven. For many years the business was located on Fourth Street, SW at Avenue A. (The location would later be home to Berry Builders Supply. Home Builders Supply did $10,000 in business the first year. Hundreds of land speculators and new residents were constructing houses, hotels, and businesses taking advantage of the boom-time economy.
The company prospered throughout the 20s even as the land boom went bust. During the Depression years of the 30s the company survived with a reputation for reasonably priced building supplies.
Following World War II, Sweet and his family purchased Hedrick's interest in the company. Home Builders Supply expanded to serve a countywide trading area. In 1948, a branch store opened in Auburndale as an experiment in the "cash-and-carry" method of operation.
The company learned many valuable lessons from the experimental Auburndale store. Eventually both the downtown Winter Haven and Auburndale locations were sold. The company slowly expanded its "cash-and-carry" chain building supply stores throughout Central Florida.
In 1968, the business (with 17 stores and sales of $12 million +) issued a public stock offering to raise about $2 million for expansion. The money helped build new stores, pay off the company's short-term bank notes and replace the old Home Builders Supply signs with new "Scotty's" signs.
When the Winter Haven corporate offices opened in the late 1960s, the company operated out of a new 9,000 square foot building on seven acres of land. By 1988 the complex had grown to 58 acres of land with 55,000 square feet of office space and a million square feet of warehousing.
In the 1980s, Scotty's introduced several changes including a broader product selection and air-conditioned sales areas. At the same time they launched a number of smaller "hardware" stores. These stores were targeted for smaller markets where larger stores were not practical. The company grew to serve residents in Florida, Alabama and Georgia. At one point Scotty's was Florida's largest home building supply.
The Sweet family eventually sold the business to GIB Group of Belgium. Later, a group of management personnel repurchased the company. Changes in home building supply retailing and the introduction of "super stores" led to the demise of Scotty’s.
The closing of the Winter Haven store was the end of and era for the Home Builders Supply legacy of Harry Hendrick and Evanda Hugh Sweet that began right here in Winter Haven in 1924.
Today's installment was compiled from a 1988 Scotty's news release and information from The History of Winter Haven by Josephine Burr.
The Museum of Winter Haven History will reopen January 5, from 9 a.m. to Noon. Group tours are available for four or more people by appointment. The museum, located at 660 Pope Avenue and Lake Howard Drive, is free and open to the public. Come explore. For further information contact Bob Gernert, 863-206-6855 or firstname.lastname@example.org