Where It All Began: The Story of Pieter Christian Richard

In the years leading up to 1909, Pieter Christian “P.C.” Richard paved the way for the next 107 years. P.C. was born in Amsterdam, Holland in 1880. He traveled to America when he was 18 years old in pursuit of the American Dream. It was in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, NY that P.C. laid the foundation of his family’s hardware store that his son, Alfred J. Richard (A.J.), our founder, would later transform into a regional appliance retailer and what P.C. Richard & Son is today.

On May 31, 1899, P.C. stepped off the 4,500-ton steamship, Spaarndam, and walked down the gangway in hopes of building a prosperous new life. P.C.’s older brother, Edward, arrived in America a few years earlier, and he made a living as a tinsmith and roofer. Much like his brother, P.C. was extremely hardworking. P.C. was previously a bicycle repairman in Amsterdam, and he was skilled with tools. He also had a strong interest in all things mechanical, the key to his success when combined with a strong work ethic.

The first job that turned up was driving a horse-drawn carriage for the Children’s Aid Society in Brooklyn, a very physically taxing job. He later became a gravedigger, which he found to be easier. As Edward’s business began to grow, P.C. was given the opportunity to work for him as a tinsmith. He picked up many skills that would help him in the world of business. He wanted to get married have children, and he hoped for a job that would allow him to work all year. Tinsmiths were unable to work during inclement weather, so he took a job as a hardware clerk in lower Manhattan. In 1906, P.C. married a woman named Odelia Zimmerman, and they started a family together.

After working several years as a hardware clerk and learning the business, P.C. started a part-time home repair business of his own in a 40-by-16-foot store on 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. A milk delivery job occupied P.C.’s morning hours, and Odelia helped out at the shop while taking care of their firstborn child, Carrie. P.C. posted a sign in the storefront window that read, “Repair and Fix Locks, Roofs, Furnaces, Replace Broken Window Glass, Painting and Plumbing Jobs,” all skills in which he learned as a tinsmith. With the money earned from repair jobs, he kept buying more inventory. Eventually, his repair business had grown so much that P.C. leveraged it into his own hardware store in 1909…

… and something else happened in 1909! P.C. and Odeila’s son Alfred (A.J.) was born on October 11, 1909. He would later become the official founder of P.C. Richard & Son and all we’re known for today. It’s often said that A.J. was “born to sell” as he always had such a deep passion for customer service.

Have you ever wondered how P.C. Richard & Son started selling appliances? Well, A.J. began to develop a broader vision for the business. As the nation shifted from gas lighting to electrification in the 1920s, an array of home appliances began to surface. A.J. started to sell appliances at his family’s hardware store, which was the turning point for a truly remarkable business opportunity. Home appliances, with the ambition of our founder, began to transform P.C.’s hardware store into a regional appliance retailer and what P.C. Richard & Son is today.

Acknowledgements: The informative content of this blog is from our book Work Well Done: The 100-Year Story of P.C. Richard & Son by Jim H. Smith. If you’d like to learn more about our rich history, copies are available for purchase at any of our store locations!

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