Thursday, June 14, 2007
Hans Jevne Dies in L.A. at Age of 78
By ROGER M. GRACE
Hans Jevne, who in 1882 came to Los Angeles and opened a small retail grocery store on North Spring Street, died on May 6, 1927, after attaining vast success as a entrepreneur and establishing himself as an effective and devoted civic leader.
Born in Hamar, Norway, on Feb. 28, 1849, he came to the United States at the age of 17 to go to work in the Chicago grocery store of his brother Christian.
Moving to the gentle clime of Los Angeles for sake of his wife’s health, the 33-year-old shopkeeper—possessed of pluck, personality and purpose—steadily expanded his operations, soon attaining West Coast supremacy in the grocery business in terms of the size and quality of his stock. That stock included imported delicacies…including, of course, products from his native Norway.
Jevne started out selling groceries at 38 and 40 North Spring Street; in 1890, he shifted to larger quarters at 136 and 136 N. Spring Street; in 1896, the rising businessman relocated to 210 S. Spring Street (now this newspaper’s address); and in 1907, he opened up shop in a building at Sixth and Broadway, soon taking over all six floors, while retaining his Spring Street location.
The May 8 obituary in the Los Angeles Times notes that the latest facility “was said to be the finest retail store in the country, both for the equipment and the class of trade it catered to.” Some went farther in assessing the excellence of his operations. “California and Californians,” Vol. Three, published in 1932, says that “[g]rocers as well as the general public paid the store at Sixth and Broadway the tribute of being the finest retail grocery store in the world….”
The Times obituary reflects that Jevne “enjoyed a wide circle of friends and was nationally known as a grocer.”
The Los Angeles Examiner’s article that morning refers to Jevne as “one of Los Angeles’ best known business men and civic leaders.”
He died of pneumonia, which he had contracted three weeks earlier. Death took place in the Hancock Park home of his daughter, Vera Henneberger (whose husband, Herman, was the H. Jevne Company treasurer). The daughter and Jevne’s son, Jack, were by his bedside when he succumbed. His wife, Mina, and a daughter named Mina, had predeceased him.
In his later years, Jevne had sought to turn over, in increments, what had become extensive wholesale, as well as retail, operations to son Jack. The father spent seven months away from the business operations in 1905, touring Europe with his wife and daughter Vera. (Their travels included a trip to Hamer, Norway, the native town Jevne had not seen for 39 years.)
Jack Jevne did attend to business…somewhat…but spent much of his time at social events and playing in golf tournaments.
An ad appearing in the Times on May 17, 1920 announces:
“For thirty-eight years, founded on quality, the H. Jevne Company has engaged in the retail business in this city with a degree of success well known to you. [¶] During the past few years our manufacturing and wholesaling departments has necessitated the adoption of a new policy. [¶] On May 29th, our retail business will be discontinued and, in the future, all activities of the H. Jevne Company will be devoted to manufacturing and wholesale exclusively.”
The company did continue as a thriving enterprise, wholesaling goods, as well as manufacturing products such as bread, coffee and mayonnaise, and exporting wares across the globe.
Jevne in 1925 yielded the presidency of the company to his son, remaining chairman of the board.
Despite a public announcement that funeral services for Jevne would be private, the chapel was crammed with mourners. Jevne was buried at Evergreen Cemetery near the grave of his friend and competitor in the grocery business George A. Ralphs, who had died June 21, 1914…and whose descendants had not frittered their time on golf courses.
Following his death, operations of H. Jevne Co. dwindled. According to “California and Californians”:
“When in August, 1928, the newspapers announced the withdrawal of the H. Jevne Company, from the wholesale grocery business the announcement carried with it something of a personal interest to a large part of the population of Southern California. September 1, 1928 marked the passing of the firm name as wholesale grocers from Los Angeles after it had been prominently related with the commercial life of the city for over forty-five years. The H. Jevne Company, however, still remains in business as manufacturers of bread and exporters of merchandise to all parts of the world.”
The “H. Jevne” name remained alive, commercially, for but a few more years. On Oct. 12, 1934, there appeared in the Los Angeles Times the last ad in that newspaper for Jevne’s bread...which had been baked in the city for more than 50 years. Jack Jevne flitted on to various other commercial projects including, most immediately, presidency of the Pacific Distillers, Inc.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company
MetNews Main Page Reminiscing