George H. Hill Company
If you’ve heard of the George Hill Co., you most likely know it as a seed store on Pike Street in Covington, but it’s been many things, and over many years. To quote from the company’s brochure:
“George W. Hill arrived in Hardscrabble [Grant County] Kentucky in 1863 with a few sacks of flour, several barrels of whiskey, a couple of dollars and a heart full of determination. [All well and good, except the 1860 census shows him as being 14 years old, living with his parents, William H and Mary Hill, in Hardscrabble.] The brochure again: “With this he opened his first store, stocked with groceries and general merchandise. From this humble beginning, Geo. W. Hill & Co. was born. As Hill would later tell his son, ‘I remember one day the Union Army marched past the store, only to be followed a few days later by the Confederates.’ No doubt, times were moving...so too was Geo. W. Hill & Co.”
“Two years later, 1865. Hill relocated his business in Covington, Kentucky; 27-29 Pike Street to be exact. [Then again, city directories of Covington show George Hill as a clerk at Hill & Pike’s, wholesale grocers at 12& 14 Pike Street; George W. Hill doesn’t show up as his own proprietor – the George H. Hill Co, at 27-29 Pike St – until the city directory of 1874.] The retail store is still at the same address. Shortly after moving to Covington, business began picking up. Salesmen commuted by train to smaller outlying towns to solicit orders. In 1918, George W. Hill passed away, but the seeds of profit he planted were to grow string into the future.
“The future was now in the hands of Hill’s son, George L. Hill. By the 1920’s, George L. had expanded the business to include lawn, garden, and field seed, products for which Geo. W. Hill & Co is known today.
“The hard years of the 30’s tested the determination of the company. Merchandise had to be sold below cost to meet payroll demands. But Geo. W. Hill & Co never lost sight of its customers’ needs, often extending long-term credit. The business was able to survive those lean years with employee dedication and sheer determination. In 1941 George L. Hill died, leaving the company to his sons, Tom and James, who would give Geo. W. Hill & Co. a new direction.
“In 1953, realizing the market potential for seed, garden and turf grass supplies, Tom and James closed the grocery and dedicated the company’s entire efforts to the green industry. It proved to be a profitable gamble. By 1960, business had increased enough to add additional salesmen and warehouse employees, many of whom came from the Chas. McCullough Co. in Cincinnati. By the middle of the 60’sw Tom’s sons, G. William and David Hill also joined the company.
“After outgrowing existing warehouse space, Geo. W. Hill & Co., in 1969, moved to new office and warehouse facilities in Florence, Kentucky. The company has remained in Florence, adding more warehouse and office space as needed to accommodate their rapidly growing business. New plans are being drawn for future growth in ’88 and ’89, which will carry the company into the 21st century.”