Lewis Bear Company
|Lewis Bear Company|
|Location||6120 Enterprise Drive|
Pensacola, FL 32505
Incorporated December 10, 1901
|President||Lewis Bear, Jr.|
|Phone number||(850) 434-8612|
The Lewis Bear Company is a beverage distributorship founded in 1876 that holds the regional franchise for Anheuser-Busch. The company is headquartered in Pensacola and maintains offices in DeFuniak Springs and Panama City. The current president is Lewis Bear, Jr..
Founded by Bavarian immigrant Lewis Bear in 1876, Lewis Bear & Company was originally located at 118 South Palafox Street (now the site of the Saenger Theatre) and served as a combination grocery and chandlery. Bear soon partnered with C. J. Heinberg to expand the business, and in 1892 the company moved into its own building at the northeast corner of Palafox and Main Street. The new, two-story warehouse and office building held a variety of groceries, building materials, animal feeds, liquor, and other merchandise.
Following Bear's death in 1895, the company was reorganized with his sons Morris and Max as principals, as well as Adolph Greenhut. The company became a franchise for Budweiser lager beer, and on December 10, 1901 it was restructured as a corporation.
The Bears utilized newly-available regional transportation to expand sales territories and added several facilities, including a warehouse for animal feed and a stable for cartage mules. A coastal vessel enabled the company to deliver goods to small towns along the Gulf of Mexico and to lumber company commissaries.
The family business was joined by Robert H. Kahn (who married Morris's daughter Hilda), Ben Goodman (who married Max's daughter Leomah), and William Pollak (who married Max's daughter Elise), all of whom worked for the company in some capacity.
Morris died in 1928, and Max (who would later serve as mayor of Pensacola) took over as president. During the Prohibition era, the company focused on the distribution of non-alcoholic beverages, but returned to spirits in 1933. Robert and Lewis Kahn became executives, and in 1941 they solidified the company's presence in downtown Pensacola by purchasing a warehouse building at Cedar and Main from the West Florida Grocery Company. After Max died in 1956, Morris's son Lewis was named president. When health problems forced him to step down, Robert Kahn, Jr. became president and William Pollak became board chairman.
Having outgrown its downtown facilities by 1957, the company moved to a new headquarters at 4150 West Blount Street. The "Bear Block" at Palafox and Main was purchased by the Pensacola Restaurant Supply Company, while other downtown warehouses would sit vacant for decades to come.
1898 ad featuring the Bear Block
- SunBiz.org entry
- Mural inside the Cedar Street Warehouse]]