Denn Brothers Sporting Goods

 

Photos and articles courtesy of
Meyer Denn



 


Herman Denn Family     Sidney Denn Family     Manuel Denn Family
 




Denn Wives
Helen, wife of Manuel; Gertie, wife of Sidney; and Rose, wife of Herman

 




Nichols Street Furniture
 


Site of House of Bargains on 13th Street
 


The Denn wives operated Denn's Furniture and Gifts in this building 1979 - 1997
1824 7th Street

 




Denn Brothers Store before Sidney joined the business
 




Manuel, Herman and Sidney
 

Herman, Sidney, Manuel



 


Manuel, Herman and Sidney
 



 


Denn Brothers Faced With Dilema
Children Not Interested in Family Business

By Thanh Tran

When Joe Denn opened a family business, none of his children wanted to take it over; instead his three sons opened a sporting goods store.

Now, the same thing is happening to the brothers--none of the children wants to take over the business.

The Denn family has been a familiar name in the area for almost 70 years, starting with a grocery store in the Roaring '20s and now with Denn Brothers Sporting Goods and Denn's Furniture and Gift Center.

Joe Denn and Bertha Schwartz immigrated to New York from Czechoslovakia in 1920. They came to live with family in Wharton and opened Joe Denn Grocery in Bay City in 1921. They had three sons, Herman, Manuel, Sidney, and a daughter, Ethel.

His sons helped with the store until all three entered the service and served in World War II.

After the war, Herman and Manuel began a surplus store inside their aunt Esther Goldman's store at the present location of Bay City Bank and Trust [IBC Bank in 2013]. Later on, Sidney joined his brothers in the business venture.

"When we got out of the service, we didn't want to go into grocery so we opened a surplus store," said Sidney.

"We started out with limited capital. It was originally across the street," Manuel recalled.

As business grew, so did the store. "We went from 240 square feet to 1,250 square feet," he said.

About 1949, the brothers saw the surplus industry was not going to survive and decided to go into sporting goods. "There was one other store at that time," Sidney said, so another sporting good store would be a nice addition to the city.

Denn Brothers Sporting Goods later moved to its present location, 1911 Seventh St., in 1968 with 7,600 square feet of space to store their merchandise.

Looks can be deceiving when it comes to the size of the store. At first glance, it is just a regular-sized store. The sales area is filled with sporting goods, but in the back, there are three large storage rooms, each larger than the sales area, with merchandise and equipment scattered about. A screen shop is located in the rear of the building.

Even though they have more than enough room for expansion, the Denn Brothers have no plans to enlarge the shop. They're busy enough with its current size, they said.

Manuel remembered that at one time, they were purchased wholesale items from Oshman Sporting Goods.

"Oshman's very first store was in Bay City. My father was friends with Mr. Oshman and we had been in sporting goods for about a year. THey sold wholesale and we sold retail goods. He cam down one day and said, 'I thought I was your friend. You never gave us an order.'"

"We told him no one called on us, so we gave them business at one time."

The Denn brothers have been busy with their store for the past 44 years and they are now looking for someone to take over the business, but no one in the family jumped to accept the offer.

"We don't know how to predict the future," said Herman. "There's a lot of discount stores and it gets very competitive. We have to meet competition with competition. None of the kids want to come back.

"What's going to happen, we have no idea," he continued. "We're hoping someone would change his mind and take it over. We would like to find young people who are interested in the store."

Including sporting goods, they provide screen printing, do their own engraving, plaques, lamination and ribbons. They also build their own trophies and furnish school uniforms for athletic teams. Their store offers basic equipment for almost all sports that can be found in this area.

The Denn brothers' struggle for survival got some national attention in the July 9 issue of U. S. News and World Report. They wre the lead story in an article focusing on family businesses that are trying to keep the company alive when other family members are losing interest in it.

"About 1/2 years ago, some California people are doing a book on the history of Jews in the United States and they came and took pictures of us and put it in the book," Manuel recalled. The book is called The Jews in America and U. S. News and World Report reporter Gary Cohen noticed the Denn brothers when he saw the book.

"The author (Cohen) got a hold of the book and asked us if he could do a story on us," said Manuel. And the result was national exposure in the business section.

"I think part of our success is that we tried to be honest with our customers and we tried to be fair," said Manuel.

"This is the land of opportunity. If you want to work hard, you can make it. Bay City has been good to us. We've made lots friends," said Herman.

"If you work hard and be honest, you'll get in U. S. News and World Report," Manuel smiled.

The Daily Tribune
 




New Faces
Denn Bros. Changes Hands, Keeps Namesake

BAY CITY--As Bay City changes according to both the economic and generational climates dictate, the local business community changes with it.

But change does not always mean shutting the doors. Sometimes, it merely means new faces and enduring traditions. Denn Bros. Sporting Goods Store, which has been one of the cornerstones of the business community here for over 50 years will begin seeing a new face behind the counter--that of its new owner, Edwin Gay.

The store was originally owned and operated by the Denn brothers--Manuel, Sidney and Herman. The store operated under new ownership for the first time Monday.

Gay said that he began talking with the Denns two years ago about buying the store, but at the time they were not interested in selling it.

"I've always been interested in the outdoors. I think Denn Bros. serves a valuable service for the community, especially to the youth of this area," said Gay about his reason for purchasing the store.

He added, "It's a very dynamic industry."

At this time, there are no plans to drastically change the name of the store, Gay said. He commented that the store will begin bearing the name of Denn's Sport Headquarters. He also has no plans to change the store. "All we're doing is spring cleaning," he commented.

As the Sidney Denn, he said that he will continue to work at the store at least for a while.

He added, "It's time for some other people to come in." Sidney explained that the reason for Herman Denn and Helen Denn selling the business was their many years in business.

"We've been in business over 50 years and everybody has to give up sometime," Herman Denn said. He also thanked everybody in Bay City for helping to make the store a success.

Daily Tribune, March 14, 1996
 


Site of Denn Brothers Sporting Goods store in 2013