1948 Checker Notions was founded in 1948 by Bob Krieger and Jerry Van Walbeck to promptly supply zippers, threads, yarns and ribbon to J.C. Penney, Woolworth and Kresge stores in Northwest Ohio. Delivery from the store’s main supply sources could take up to six weeks. The founders recognized that potential business awaited if orders could be shipped the day they were ordered. Our present day commitment to same day shipping remains the same. The venture began with $150 each and was located in Jerry’s basement on Bellevue Road in Toledo. Bob would sell the products during the day and Jerry would process the orders and keep the books. Both partners still maintained other full-time jobs. Checker was a very small private enterprise. Del Krieger, Bob’s wife, named Checker Notions when she made an order form for all the notions stocked so the customer could put a check mark next to the items they wanted. She initiated the phrase “Check with Checker.” This phrase appeared on company stationery and was part of the greeting on the telephone.
In 1953 the fledging company was moved to a small storefront on the corner of Lincoln and Detroit Avenues in Toledo. Also during this year, the second employee, Del Krieger joined the company on a part-time basis when she could break away from raising her two small children, Rob and Dede. Helen Younkman, our first employee, part time, and Del worked in the small warehouse, Jerry did the books and Bob called on the customers.
1955 was a turning point in regards to commitment for Checker’s growth. Coats and Clark was Bob’s employer. While he was on vacation his supervisor called on Checker and found out that Bob was an owner and that he was working for both companies, against company rules. Coats and Clark immediately terminated him. This left no other choice. Del began to work full-time and Bob had to substantially increase his geographical sales effort calling on stores for Checker.
By 1959 Jerry chose to devote his full-time efforts to his father’s company and sold his share of ownership to friends of the Krieger’s, Marge and Lou Beale of Detroit. They remained silent partners, leaving the management to the Krieger’s. Also in that year the business and family residence was moved to the Secor Road location. The entire inventory fit easily into the front Southeast corner building of 2650 square feet. The Krieger family lived in the house in front of the business. By now there were two full-time and two part-time employees. Business times were not good and without the sacrifices of Del and Bob, the company would not have survived.
In 1963 through much perseverance, determination and hard work the first addition, the Southwest corner section of 4,400 square feet, was added to the original building. In this year, the Krieger’s purchased the Beale’s share of the company. During the next eight years, many various types of products were experimented with. Tablecloths, yarns, novelties, knick-knacks, inexpensive luggage, hats, clothesline and various other general variety store merchandise were stocked. This gave customers a variety of products to choose from and expanded our reputation as a company, which was capable of supplying what the customer wanted.
In 1967 Checker exhibited in it’s first trade show, the Cleveland Textile Show. They were the only distributor of notions present and it helped greatly in the expansion of its business.
In 1971 Rob Krieger returned from the Army and chose to work for the family business. At this time there were six full time and five part-time employees in the warehouse and two part-time salespeople.
1973 marked the introduction of our first automated billing machine, a Burroughs “L4000”. Primitive by today’s standards, it greatly assisted the extension of invoices and ledger cards, which were previously typed or handwritten.
The first complete catalog was published in 1974. Also, two incoming nationwide WATS lines and one incoming WATS line for Ohio were installed.
In 1975 the second addition to Checker was built to bring the total capacity to 10,040 square feet. The number of employees was now 17, both full and part-time.
1980 brought Checker to the computer age. Our first computer, an IBM System 34 was installed to help in all phases of business. Additional salespeople and warehouse employees were hired.
1982-83 saw our product lines expanded to give greater depth to sewing notions and craft related items. More catalogs than ever were distributed to customers.
In 1984 fabrics and art supplies were added to our product line. These decisions were made because of the declining demand for just notions. Our ability for change and diversification was once again demonstrated.
1986 brought our second-generation computer, a Burroughs B1900 with software especially designed for a distributor. Also, our third addition was built bringing the square footage to over 24,000 square feet. 1986 was the year in which the employee handbook was first published.
In 1990, a large southern sales force was hired. The need for next day delivery to our customers made this expansion essential. Also, our third generation computer, an IBM RISC 6000 was ordered for installation in 1991.
In January of 1995, Checker Distributors relocated to a new warehouse at 400 West Dussel Drive Ste B in Maumee, OH, with a total capacity of 63,000 sq. ft. A new phone and computer system were added. This location better serves the needs of our ever-growing company.
1997 was an exciting year as we began to prepare for the year 2000. The concept of Checker 2000 was developed to anticipate the expected changes in the world market. Our objective is to maintain Checker as the world’s leading distributor in our market. Plans, goals and contingencies were analyzed and put forth. Our marketing and sales departments were expanded. Radio frequency equipment and software for internal processing of orders was purchased. The recording of 55,000 item bar codes into our computers for use with the RF equipment was begun. We began construction of our Internet site as our window to the world.
1999 We developed our capabilities further into electronic commerce arena. Our website was expanded and the customer’s response was very enthusiastic. Our internal E-mail system was installed for internal and sale representatives use. Again, our employees showed their ability to change and grow with new technologies. Our increased product selection in books, patterns and notions added additional customer value. Order fulfillment levels were the highest ever. Our commitment to value added service through our marketing department reached new heights. Progress on the installation of Warehouse Management System intensifed. This system will allow us to significantly improve our accuracy and efficiencies in inventory, order processing and receiving. This will result in even higher customer satisfaction.
In 2000 Checker formed a partnership with Creative Grids UK to become the exclusive distributor for Creative Grids® Non Slip Quilting Rulers for the western hemisphere.
In 2002 the Maumee warehouse increased to 100,000 sq. feet. In addition, we installed 5 carousels to speed the processing of orders. Connected to our computer networks and radio frequency hand held computers, we set a goal to ship all orders received by 2PM the same day. Recognition of our employees hard work and attention to customer service were recognized on October 25, 2003 at the International Quilt Market, when Checker was awarded the “Best of Notions Distributor for 2003” by the Fabric Shop Network representing almost 1,000 domestic quilt and fabric shops. We won the Best of Categories in: Fill Rate, On-Time Delivery, Accuracy, Return Policy, Order Desk, Salesperson to Work With & Company to Work With.
In 2003 Rob’s son Brad Krieger entered the business as a traveling sales rep covering Colorado, Wyoming, West Nebraska, West Kansas, South Dakota and Northern New Mexico.
In 2004/2005 we installed state of the art distribution software that incorporates all aspects of the distribution processes into one system. The utilization of all-encompassing software and the dedication of our employees will insure that we maintain our high level of service to our customers. In 2005 Brad Krieger moved back from Colorado to take over the sales territory of Western Ohio, Southern Michigan and Eastern Indiana.
In 2006 our Team worked hard on developing a new comprehensive website that incorporates advanced search capabilities, a fabric color selector, top 20 selling items and newest products by category and “How to Use” product videos. The “Where to Buy” feature is designed to guide consumers to Independent businesses & to bring “wish lists” of products they select to the Independent.
In 2007 Brad Krieger moved into the corporate office as the new Fabric Buyer, and began to learn all facets of the business by taking on many additional roles.
The years 2008 to 2011 were filled with increased emphasis on how to make the work lives of our customers, independent shop owners, easier. By utilizing new technologies, and customizing them for independents, we have helped save shops time and provided tools otherwise not available to them: Website enhanced searching, ease of ordering, actual shop costs online after sign-in, historical purchases, account balances, companion items for products, best sellers by product category, packing lists with color images of products ordered and items organized by product groupings for faster check in when received.
In 2012 Weekly newsletters, email blasts, and social media sites like Facebook, were added to communicate better and faster. IPAD applications for sales reps replaced the traditional hand-written order pads.
During 2013, we gained exclusive rights to The Gypsy Quilter™ products.
During 2016, Checker made freight agreements allowing Canadian and European Union customers significant savings on their import and freight costs. Also, the warehouse underwent an expansive renovation project which increased automation and order fulfillment capabilities for our customers.
In 2017, Brad Krieger was named President of Checker Distributors. Rob Krieger and his wife Gina Krieger still remain active Officers of the company. Brad spent 4.5 years on the road as a sales rep and 10 years internally as a the fabric buyer, freight manager, purchasing manager and many other responsibilities.
2018 Checker celebrated its 70th anniversary on Friday, August 3rd after work at the Maumee, Ohio warehouse. There was live music, great food, and just good fun. In the fall, Checker began installing updated carousel units, replacing those installed in 2001. This will again increase capacity, effeciency, and speed in processing customer orders.
2020 In spite of an initial downturn, we remained strong during COVID. We were deemed an essential business and our customers were grateful. With continued cooperation from our team, we actually grew significantly and increased our reputation as the best in the industry. Creative Grids® created the wildly successful Face Mask Template 3 Sizes in 1 #CGRFACE, and The Gypsy Quilter™ brand sourced and sold millions of yards of elastic for face masks.
2023 Checker celebrated its 75th anniversary on June 28 at the Maumee, Ohio warehouse. This was combined with a Sales Rep in-house conference. There was great food, networking, and fun. Rob and Gina Krieger flew in from Florida to participate.
Checker again added more exclusive product offerings such as multiple Creative Grids® rulers, cutting mats, and tools, Gypsy Quilter® items, as well as, purchasing the Karen Kay Buckley® Perfect Quilting Products line.
Checker’s future continues to be bright. A commitment to our employees and customers is paramount in everything we do. We are exploring innovative ways to continue to improve the customer experience. Our customers are our business focus and we will do all that is required to provide the very best of service! This includes ensuring our valued employees are treated to the best work environment and have the tools required to meet our goal of top customer service. Monthly company-provided lunches and various holiday or spirit contests have been enjoyed by all. Making enhancements to the 401k retirement plan is one of these important improvements expected in 2024.
We look forward to working with all of you to have another great year! Thank you!