Ben Jenkins grew up running around his grandfather’s business in downtown Logan, Bennett’s Paint and Glass.
When he reflects on his younger years, his memories of the three story building at 45 N. Main are scattered. Old hardware; glass soda bottles; aging concrete steps and ramps; a mini golf course.
Elsewhere in the store was a big vent in the floor. Ben liked to stand on it and wait for a big gush of air to rise up and blow on him.
The building that used to be Bennett’s Paint and Logan Hardware on Main Street was eventually torn down and built back up again to become the Copper Mill Restaurant. Such a transformation reminds Ben Jenkins, now 33, that some things change — but traditions never do.
Like the fact that he is the fifth Jenkins generation to be a part of the family business since it opened 100 years ago. Even in 2012, Bennett’s Paint, located at 1962 N. Main, is one of Cache Valley’s primary paint and hardware stores.
To Greg Jenkins, 58, Ben’s father and a co-owner of the store, it just seems natural to pass it on from one generation to the next.
“It’s an accomplishment for any kind of business to have that longevity,” Greg said on Tuesday when asked about Bennett’s celebrating its 100th birthday. “There’s also an obligation to carry it on and build on that legacy of those in our family who established the business.”
Those carrying on the business today also include Greg’s sister, Martha Rose, his sister, a co-owner, and their brother, Ron, who owns Bennett’s Glass. Their father, Lowell, now 85, owned it from 1958 right up until 2004, when he decided to retire. Lowell’s wife, Donna, has also been a big supporter of Bennett’s.
“I think they’d be very proud that it’s survived 100 years,” Rose said of the first generation who founded Bennett’s. “The fact that it’s still the family that manages it is probably the best tribute to them.”
Ben Jenkins said it means a lot to be part of a business that goes five generations strong.
“That’s kind of why I’m here; I looked at the options, the things I could do, there’s a pull (for me) to work in the family business because it goes back so far,” said Jenkins, who does “a little bit of everything” at Bennett’s Paint and Glass. “I think (I’m learning) the same way any apprenticeship is set up — learn by doing; watch what everyone else does and copy that.”
Ben said participating in the business has strengthened him personally, too.
“Luckily we all get along really well as a family,” Ben said. “It’s nice to be able to spend all your time at work with people you know and care about.”
History: From hardware to paint
The Jenkins family has roots in Cache Valley business going back before Utah received statehood.
Greg, Martha and Ron’s great-great-grandfather, David Jenkins, was one of the first merchants of Cache Valley in the 1860s, running David’s Mercantile on 50 W. 100 North in Logan.
In 1912, his grandson, Charles, started Logan Hardware, a hardware store, also selling sporting goods and guns, at 45 N. Main Street. Though he only had a third grade education, Charles was determined to make the business great, said Lowell.
“He treated customers like family,” Lowell said. “He was a pleasure to be around.”
In 1926, Salt Lake City businessman John Bennett, the father and grandfather of future U.S. Senators, bought Logan Hardware company (they kept it under the name Logan Hardware, and the name wouldn’t change until the Jenkins family bought it from the Bennetts’). For a long time after that, the Logan Hardware store actually sold Bennett’s brand paint, which would go out of business many years later.
On Christmas Day, 1927, trouble struck. A fire engulfed the three story hardware building’s third floor. Hardware remained, but the third floor was never used again.
“It could have burned through all of downtown Logan,” Greg said of the fire.
The Jenkins family is unsure of what happened with the business during the depression and World Wars, but it did sustain itself.
Fast forward to 1958: Charles died of a heart attack and his son, Lowell, took over the business.
“It was an honor and a little (nerve wracking), but I knew business pretty well,” Lowell said. “I enjoyed working and met a lot of good people.”
Years went by and then Martha, a few years older than her brother, started at 19 as a sales clerk.
“It always felt like a second home to me,” she said.
Then Greg started at Bennett’s working part-time in the early 1970s while a student at Logan High School. In 1974, he went full-time as a sales clerk.
“I felt like it was a great opportunity and I felt a sense of pride in my family to carry this on,” Greg said.
Both attended Utah State University, but never finished their degrees. In 1978, the Jenkins family bought the business from Bennett. In February, 1996, Bennett’s moved from 45 N. Main Street up several blocks to its current location. Back then, there wasn’t much out in that part of Logan except farmland.
“We needed the room,” Greg said. “We felt like this was going to be a retail area and luckily, we were right. It was a good move for us.”
In 2001, the glass and paint entities of the store separated.
“As competition came, we needed to focus on painting and glass,” Martha said.
In 2004, when Lowell retired, Greg and Martha bought the business from him.
The Jenkins family feels pretty optimistic about the future, saying none of them lie awake at night worrying about the business.
“It’s in good hands. Despite the economy, our business is still strong. People keep coming back,” Ron said.
So what is the secret to the Jenkins’ success?
“Following our ancestors tradition of being honest, hardworking and respectful of others,” Ron said. “We were raised to get a long and respect each other. We’ve also been very conservative; we don’t spend money until we have it.”
Martha made the observation that most family businesses don’t stay together that long, mostly because of conflicting beliefs of where the business should go.
“We’ve always been able to get along and decisions as a group,” she said.
Greg believes the key to the future success of Bennett’s is simple.
“We just have to continue to build on a path where we can adapt. There’s a bright future for both stores,” he said.
That bright future includes his son, Ben, taking over when it’s time for Ben to retire.
It’s the plan, Greg emphasizes.
“It think it gives you some security, knowing the transition will be smooth,” Greg said. “He brings a lot to the business that we need in order to compete in today’s world. Things that I don’t have; the ability to utilize computers and technology.”
If Charles Jenkins were able to see the store has gone through five generations, he “would be proud,” said Ben.
“He put a lot of heart and soul into the store and to me, it’s going to mean a lot when my sons and grandsons are still around doing what we do as a family.”