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Crescent Electric—Company History

Crescent Electric Supply Company opened for business in Dubuque, Iowa in 1919. World War I had just ended and the American economy was gearing up for peacetime growth. Everywhere, new electrical conveniences were being introduced. Electric lighting was becoming universal. Electric-powered tools and machinery were changing the workplace. Electric refrigerators were now available for the home. And the new medium of radio was just beginning to show commercial promise.

The growing popularity of these many innovations created a need for an expanded electrical infrastructure requiring miles of electrical wire and cable, and a myriad of switches, outlets, hardware and devices to deliver power safely to home, office and factory.

Titus B. Schmid, an electrical contractor in Dubuque, Iowa, was earning a good livelihood in this burgeoning industry. But he was not satisfied with waiting for the materials and supplies he needed for his business to be shipped by river from either Minneapolis or St. Louis. So, Schmid decided to start his own electrical supply company—one that would carry the full inventory needed by his fellow contractors and the broader community.

Though some believed that the business of stocking and distributing a huge variety of electrical supplies could only thrive in large metropolitan areas, Schmid saw that the demand for all this new technology was just as strong in the smaller cities and towns as it was in the large cities. In spite of what the “experts” said and in spite of the daunting task of carrying a large and constantly changing inventory for this rapidly changing technology, Schmid put the needs of his customers first, and put his faith in the old peddler’s maxim, “you can’t sell from an empty wagon.” He founded his company on simple but timeless business principles: sell quality merchandise, price it competitively, and keep the shelves full.

He was soon vindicated in his decision. Successful with the first distribution facility in Dubuque, Schmid expanded the business during the 1920s, first with a branch operation in Madison, Wisconsin, then with outlets in Davenport and Burlington, Iowa. The company weathered the Great Depression and experienced strong, steady growth in the decades that followed, expanding into 26 states and serving customers from coast to coast and border to border.

Today, Crescent Electric operates more than 120 distribution facilities. The business founded by Titus B. Schmid now uses the latest online systems and wireless devices to speed ordering and delivery. But the company is still family-owned and is still guided by the basic business principles and Midwestern values that have been the foundation of the business for nearly a century. Customers stay with us year after year because of our reliability, flexibility, and dependable local inventories. And we all look forward to beginning our second century of service.