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Grocery store owner likely longest working GH merchant

Kevin Collier • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:40 PM

Ball showed up every day for work at the same business for 65 years.

      And, if you factor in his first job before that, at age 12, Ball was actively employed for 76 of his 88 years.

      Ball was a grocery store owner and dry goods merchant from 1875 to 1940. He went into retirement due to failing health on Aug. 1, 1940, and disposed of his store building, all merchandise and fixtures.

      Born the son of John and Angie (Winter) Ball on Nov. 7, 1852, Ball lived in the same city block for a lifetime. He was raised in his parents' home at the corner of Clinton and Fourth streets, and moved into his own home at 215 S. Fourth St. in 1880, soon after he married Dirkje “Delia” Van Hoef on Jan. 23, 1879.

      Quitting school at age 12, Ball went to work packing fish nets, which were handmade in the city. Later, he learned the wagon-making trade and worked for the Challenge Cornplanter Co., where he earned $2.25 per day.

      Ball began his own business in 1875, with partners Jerry and Orie Woltman, called Woltman, Ball & Co.

      When the business failed on Nov. 1, 1877, Ball appealed to his creditors to let him carry on. He and a brother bought out the Woltmans and operated the dry goods and grocery business as the J. Ball Store.

      For decades, Ball was a leading grocer, wholesaling flour and Dutch cocoa imported from the Netherlands to other area merchants.

      During the dark days of the Great Depression in 1933, when he was 80 years old, he took a risk and invested capital to remodel the “Ball block.” The gamble paid off, a grand opening of the new store took place and business grew.

      Ball’s three main interests were his home, his church and his business. All he made investments in. Ball handsomely furnished the First Reformed Church’s consistory room when the brick addition was built. He served as church treasurer and as a deacon.

      Ball had a meager education, but was industrious and an optimist, never allowing hard times, sorrow or disappointment to diminish his spirit.

      “Never let your lip hang down,” he often said to others.

      While encouraged by many to run for public office, the only public position he ever had was in 1900 when he was a member of the Board of Trade.

      Jurrin Ball died Dec. 24, 1941. His wife preceded him in death by nearly 24 years, on Feb. 3, 1918.

      It was said Ball's sense of humor often had him giving others “the business” — but when it came to business, no one else has rivaled his Grand Haven employment record: 65 years at his own establishment and 76 years overall in his lifetime.

      It would be bad business not to mention Henry Kooiman, who entered into the shoe business in 1925 becoming a partner of George Swart. In 1942, Kooiman bought out the business at 207 Washington Ave., and retired in 1987, putting in 62 years in the footwear trade. He died Nov. 20, 1994, at the age of 91.

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