Howard P. Sears Sr., 1896 was a wonderful year in which to be born. In
Bombay, NY as in all of the United States the bicycle was the main means
of transportation. The automobile had been invented, but its
replacement of the bicycle was yet to come.
parents Thomas A and Jennie Sears moved to Rome in 1900 when Thomas
Sears purchased the AP Tuller Wholesale Grocery Company together with AP
Tuller's personal residence located at 207 West Embargo St. in this city. Howard was the second of three sons. Floyd A. was the older son, and
Kyle D. was the younger son. All were to develop their own business and
to soon compete with one another.
1910 and at the age of 14, Howard gave up his schooling in favor of
starting his first business venture located in the carriage house (313
Scott Ave, located behind the Embargo Street home.)
severely for capital, Howard called upon his ingenuity and business
acumen. He would ride the trolley car to Utica where he purchased used
bicycles. He then checked them (free) in the baggage car for the return
trip to Rome. He became adept at "spoking" wheels and other repairs to
ready the bikes for resale.
accumulating sufficient capital, Howard's business advanced to the sale
of new bicycles and bicycle accessories.
H.P. Sears Cycle Co. grew successfully, the bicycle was being rapidly
replaced by the automobile. Hence, a transition from bicycles to
automobile accessories was soon underway. Howard was already showing
his astute business sense that would serve him so well throughout his
and at the age of 15 Howard had published his first very professional
and impressive catalog of automobile accessories under the name of Sears
Auto Supply Company.
As in the
bicycle business, Howard found success in selling auto accessories both
at wholesale and retail levels. In these early days of the growing
popularity of the "Horseless Carriage", windshields, running boards,
headlights, and horns were not always standard equipment. The tires and
tubes of the day were both rudimentary, short lived and undependable by
today's standards. There was also a demand for the many tools and
repair parts required to keep these early machines running. Articles of
clothing such as "dusters", driving gloves, and goggles are found in the
was always quick to recognize a new business opportunity. Accordingly,
by 1919 he was selling gasoline to the growing number of automobile
owners. As the popularity of the early autos grew, they came supplied
with more items such as windshields, running boards, and horns as
standard equipment. As the demand for auto supplies diminished, the
demand for gasoline, lubricants and lubricating services grew rapidly.
again, Howard changed the direction of his young company when he created
the OIL DEPARTMENT of the Sears Auto Supply Company. Additional
gasoline pumps and an additional grades of gasoline were added to the
Scott Ave location. The location which came to be known as "The Alley"
was to be remembered by many generations of Roman's who were loyal
customers and came to depend on
"A Superior Product at LESS THAN ORDINARY GAS PRICES".
Howard had purchased his first gasoline delivery truck, in 1923 he built
his first bulk storage terminal at a location served by railroad on
South George Street in Rome.
the business was incorporated as the H.P. Sears Oil Co., Inc.
1928-29 Howard had built an all new and modern gasoline filling station
at 312 Oriskany Blvd. in Utica. The design was nearly the same as the
Station constructed at George and Liberty Streets, Rome in 1930 and the
gasoline service station constructed on Main Street, Ilion in 1933.
had adopted the trade name Tri-Pure for marketing gasoline. This trade
name continued in use for the sale of not only gasoline but also for
various grease and motor oil products. In later years Howard chose to
sell his premium products under the SEARS brand and Tri-Pure was used to
identify the secondary grades.
Consistent with his practice of anticipating and filling customer needs,
Howard made kerosene available at all locations. Kerosene lamps were
still a primary means of lighting in many homes, but with time they gave
way to electric lighting. Kerosene cooking stoves were later replaced
by manufactured gas. However kerosene remained a popular fuel for space
heating and the H.P. Sears Oil Company started delivering kerosene and
No. 2 fuel oil directly to the homes. By the late 1930's and early
1940's Howard had again recognized new markets when he started selling
industrial fuel oils, but that is where the story of Howard's early
business career ends and the rest remains for another time.
in 1936 Howard recognized the need to upgrade and change the design of
his future service stations. Thus, the still remembered red, white and
blue art-deco porcelain enamel design was created. Also at this time
the familiar large porcelain enameled oval shaped Sears Service Station
sign first appeared.
design was utilized as follows:
Marcy NY (The second Sears Oil Co., Inc. Bulk Storage
Corner of James and Bloomfield Streets, Rome,
229 Main Street, Herkimer, NY
17 Genesee Street, New Hartford,
||State St. and Erie Blvd, Syracuse, NY
Broad Street and Lenox Ave, Oneida, NY
2006 the Sears Service Station Museum is the only remaining station of
the original design which was also utilized on Oriskany Blvd. in Utica
and Main Street in Ilion. The Oneida, NY station is still standing, but
due to painting and other changes, the exterior appearance has greatly
diminished from the art-deco glory days.