Northwestern Office Suppliers was originally founded as Northwestern Typewriter Company in February of 1947 by Harley L. Rhodes. His objective was simply to offer “… the people of Northwest Kansas a complete line of office machines and equipment. Of utmost importance–at that time and today–was our ability to offer state of the art business machines and the very finest service facilities and capabilities for service to our customers on the equipment which they purchased….”
In the early years, Northwestern Typewriter Company’s primary products, as its name implied, revolved around selling and servicing office typewriters, later offering adding machines to strengthen the product mix. By its tenth anniversary, Northwestern Typewriter Company boasted two retail stores, one in Hays and one in Colby, plus a complete line of office supplies and office furniture. Over the next ten years the company added two additional retail stores, Russell and Garden City, further developing its office machine, office supply and office furniture product lines.
Under the direction of Mr. Rhodes, many people thought the company’s reputation for honest and sincere business relationships was unsurpassed in the office equipment industry. However, as time for his retirement neared, Mr. Rhodes divested himself of each of his retail stores to those employees who had helped in their long-term success. The next few years saw the now Northwestern Business Systems adding to its’ complete office environment product mix along with adding an additional retail location in Great Bend. In June of 1986, long-time employee Jim Keller redirected the company once again and formed Northwestern Office Suppliers in its historical location at the corner of 8th and Main Streets, downtown Hays.
While attending Colby High School, company president Jim Keller began working for Mr. Rhodes part time by sweeping floors, making deliveries and cleaning typewriters. During his senior year at Fort Hays State University, Mr. Keller again joined the staff of Northwestern Typewriter Company as an in-store sales associate and mini-computer programmer. Upon graduation, he was invited to join the outside sales staff of Northwestern Typewriter Company. After serving almost ten years as an outside sales representative, Mr. Keller was promoted to sales manager of Northwestern Business Systems, serving in that capacity for four years. He next served as General Manager for two years until he formed Northwestern Office Suppliers in June of 1986.
In the summer of 1988, Northwestern Office Suppliers added a complete Hallmark personal expressions division to its downtown location. They have been proud to have been a Hallmark “Gold Crown” store location since the beginning. The Hallmark division has had a profound impact on the walk-in traffic of the store and now encompasses over half of the retail square feet.
The next seven years found the company expanding and developing not only its’ walk-in retail efforts, but also and continued to expand and develop its traditional office equipment, supply and furniture outside sales and service efforts.
Tragedy struck in December of 1993 when fire destroyed all the contents of the downtown store. Mr. Keller felt a deep responsibility to his staff and long time customers and immediately set about the clean-up and renovating process. For fourteen months, housed in temporary quarters in a vacant building next door, the company completely gutted the interior of its long-time home and remodeled it integrating the old structures with a totally new interior environment.
In the Spring of 1995, after the main buildings were remodeled, the company renovated a portion of their temporary quarters into an old-fashioned soda shop. In the spirit of the soda fountains found on every Main Street in America during the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, the Soda Shoppe serves delicatessen style lunches along with time honored ice cream and soda treats. The rationale behind the “Soda Shoppe” was similar to that of the Hallmark addition … giving existing walk-in customers more shopping opportunities while attracting new walk-in customers.
Mr. Keller has been vigilant in his continued efforts to expand and improve the retail operations of Northwestern Office Suppliers. The fall of 1996 saw the addition of a full service “Copy Centre” that offers self-service as well as full-service photocopying, computer rental, binding services, and professional graphic design.
The corner of 8th and Main now encompasses six buildings and 21,000 square feet. The entire staff of Northwestern Office Suppliers prides themselves in constantly striving to expand and improve their products and services to their customers.
Even though the product offering has been expanded, the philosophy of the company remains the same as it did over seventy years ago.
QUALITY PRODUCTS + QUALITY SERVICE = TRUE VALUE.