EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a reprint of an article originally published March 8, 1911, in the Watertown Daily Times.
To be the third-oldest manufacturing institution in a city of Watertown’s size, to be numbered among the very oldest merchandising establishments and to have a record of increasing business, year by year, from the year the business was started down to the present time — this is a record to justify pride on the part of the founders and appreciation on the part of the public.
Such is the record of the Nill & Jess Co.
Certain cardinal principles of business integrity, plus certain fundamental and consistently adhered to methods of manufacture are responsible in a large degree for the success of the institution. At no time during the existence of the business has there been any deviation from those principles and those methods. By strict adherence to them, the enterprise has grown from an obscure, on-man undertaking to a large industrial asset for Watertown, employing regularly and uninterruptedly a force of 60 men and women, whose weekly wage approximates $1,000 per week.
Early in the year 1863, John Nill, then a young man just over from his native home in Germany, with limited cash resources, opened a small candy shop in a store on the site of the present Flatiron Building at Court and Arsenal streets. After a few months alone, Mr. Nill entered into a partnership with Henry Jess, a young fellow countryman, who added his limited resources to the business in order that bread and crackers might be added to the stock in trade. A small oven was installed under the store and an engine — one of the old Hoard engines then being made here, was installed under the sidewalk in front of the store, and the making of bread and crackers began.
Ere long the business of the farm grew to such proportions that it was thought wise and profitable to procure a horse and rig and put a peddler on the road. Returning from the first trip, the peddler allowed to his employers that if they would buy cigars and let him sell them along with the bread and crackers, he believed he could make profit enough on them to pay the tavern bills for himself and the keep of his horse and rig. The idea looked good to the firm, and they stocked the driver up with cigars.
Returning from his second trip, the peddler reported that the customers complained of the quality of the cigars. He suggested that the firm go into the manufacturing business and put a better grade of cigars on the market than they could then buy. This idea, also appealed to the firm and, an itinerant cigar maker coming along about that time, they added another line to their products. In those days, 10 cent smokes were scarce articles, but in the course for a few years, a demand for a better than a 5 cent cigar was created and Nill & Jess undertook the manufacture of a better article. They called it the Pink of Perfection. Today the Pink is more than 40 years old.
While the cigar business was in its development stage, the candy, cracker and bread business was expanding and the firm’s reputation for producing superior goods was widening.
Larger ovens became necessary and more adequate facilities for marketing, as well. Conservatory, yet always progressively, the firm met the growing business conditions. The history of the business from that time down to the present is a story of steady expansion, continuous success and a never widening circle of trade. Today the firm of Nill & Jess Co. — the business was incorporated in 1897 and its capitalization increased in 1903 — is recognized as one of the most substantial in the city and its output as high class and dependable over a wide territory.
Where many similar business concerns throughout the country have disappeared entirely, either through lack of success or absorption by larger and more powerful interests, Nill & Jess Co. Has continued through the periods of depression and prosperity with uniform growth, year by year, and is now approaching the half century of its career, enjoying a larger degree of public confidence than it ever has in the past.
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