Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Kresge, Sebastian S.

Sebastian Kresge was born in Bald Mount, Pennsylvania on July 31, 1867.  He was raised by his parents, Sebastian Sr. and Catherine.  Since the family was poor, Sebastian proposed to work after his graduation from high school to help out.  In return, his parents paid for his college education.  During his college years, Kresge worked as a teacher, a clerk and even owned half a bakery.  It was while selling hardware that Kresge met F.W. Woolworth, the man who began the “five and dime” stores.

After learning from Woolworth, Kresge invested $8,000 into the J.G. McCrory store chain.  After becoming partners, McCrory and Kresge opened two more stores in Detroit and Memphis.  Kresge sold the Memphis store in order to open up his own business in Detroit in 1899, S.S. Kresge Company.  His brother-in-law became his partner and the two of them ran stores in seven different cities for seven years.  By 1912, Sebastian Kresge owned 300 stores that were worth $200 million.  In 1961, Kresge acquired the K-Mart stores in 1963, when they were financially unsuccessful. By 1966 the stores were producing $851 million in sales and around 4,200 employees.

As a man, Sebastian Kresge was known for his generosity.  To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the S.S. Kresge Company, he started the Kresge Foundation in 1924 to “promote the well-being of mankind.”  By the time of his death in 1966, Kresge had given about 2.5 million shares of S.S. Kresge Company to the foundation along with the majority of his money.  The Kresge Foundation still exists today with Sebastian’s grandson, Dr. Bruce A. Kresge as chairman of the board.  Since 1924, the Kresge Foundation has given away almost $1.5 billion.

 


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