Kelly Seed Co. was established in 1905 by W.G. Kelly. He had two stores; one in San Jose, Illinois and the other on Washington Street in Peoria, Illinois. In 1936, Harold E. Church, fresh off the farm in Stark County and just out of Business College, came to Peoria to answer an ad that W.G. had placed in the paper looking for a man with farming experience. W.G. immediately liked Harold and hired him right away. Harold was paid a princely sum of $15 per week when he started. He worked for Kelly for twenty years, never missing a day’s wages, and in 1956 Harold bought the Peoria business and inventory from Kelly. The building, however, was already sold to someone else, so Harold had to find a new location. As luck would have it, a building came up for sale just up the road and across the street from where the original store was located. Harold continued on his own with the help of his wife Helen, and business was good.
Then in the early 1960’s, Caterpillar had plans to build its world headquarters in downtown Peoria. They began buying up properties which included where Kelly Seed was located. Harold now was faced with having to move again. He did not want to move out of the downtown area, so he and Caterpillar came to an agreement to build a new building on the corner of Hamilton and Washington streets; this is where Kelly Seed continues to operate today.
In the early 1970’s, Harold’s son, Steve, and daughter, Nancee, started in the business. Harold’s other daughter, Patricia, who lives out of the area, would help during the busy spring season. Today, the third generation- Nick and Matthew- are also involved in the business. The family now has a combined total of 235 years working at Kelly Seed and Hardware!
Kelly Seed Co. was originally considered a farm store, but over the years the business has evolved and expanded to meet the changing times. The farm trade is still a major facet of the business, but customers in urban areas depend on us to supply them with quality bulk garden seed, grass seed, fertilizer and garden chemicals, as well as a large selection of bird feeders and premium bird seed mixed on site.
At Kelly Seed Co., we strive to sell quality seed at a fair price and above all continue to provide great service to our valued customers who have helped us grow since 1905.
God Bless America!!
The Harold and Helen Church Family