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Godfrey Moving Firm Sold After 69 Years

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Godfrey Moving Firm Sold After 69 Years

By Ralph Lutz

The Godfrey Moving & Storage Co. at 410 N. Fourth Ave., an Ann Arbor firm operated within the same family for 69 years, was sold yesterday.

Its new owner is the Stevens Brothers Moving & Storage Co. of Saginaw, a firm operated in that city by the same family for 50 years.

Cecil O. Creal, who has owned the local business since 1941 and whose wife, Dama, is the granddaughter of its founder, the late Charles E. Godfrey, did not disclose the sale price.

Creal said he plans to become more active in politics and hinted that he may run for mayor of Ann Arbor next spring. Besides this, he commented only that he plans to remain with the firm "in an advisory capacity" until the end of the year.

The sale of Godfrey's includes the name and all equipment. It also includes two 10-year leases: one on the building, owned by Mrs. Albert (Loretta) Beal Jacobs, daughter of the late Junius Beal; and the other on the truck lot, owned by Creal.

Archie H. Stevens of Saginaw, secretary of the new firm, said that the present name of the firm will be retained. He added that all of the firm’s 12 employees will remain on the job.

The major immediate change is that Godfrey’s has dropped its affiliation with Allied Van Lines, through which it scheduled its inter-state traffic.

Joins Different Agency

In its place the firm has joined the United States Van Lines, a similar agency.

Frank H. Clark, formerly of Saginaw, has moved to Ann Arbor to assume duties as president and resident manager of Godfrey’s. His wife, Mrs. Elaine Clark, has joined him in the business as treasurer. The Clarks have two children.

Stevens and his brother, Hazen, who is vice-president of the new firm, will retain their Saginaw residence.

The group plans eventually to add new and larger trucks. They also plan to install new signs on the three-story brick building and to remodel the front office. The firm now owns 12 vehicles of varying sizes.

Through the years, the Godfrey Moving & Storage Co. has hauled "millions of pounds of equipment over millions of miles," Creal said. He added that Godfrey’s has maintained the “lowest employee turnover rate of any comparable business in the state."

It all started in 1887, when the late Charles E. Godfrey leased the present site from the late University Regent Junius Beal. Soon, Godfrey appeared in the streets of Ann Arbor driving his one-horse dray loaded with freight.

His home was the present Dunbar Center at 420 N. Fourth Ave. His office was the present office of Douglas E. H. Williams, director of the center.

In those days, Creal related, freight, machinery & baggage made up most of the hauls. Today, he said, household goods account for nine-tenths of the business.

The present Godfrey building was erected about a decade after its founder signed the lease. With additions, it has served since. It now includes about 24,000 square feet of work space distributed over three floors and a basement.

Founder Dies In 1928

The founder died in 1928, and his son, H. B. Godfrey, became sole owner. Upon his death on July 12, 1941, Creal, his son-in-law, was named administrator of the estate and shortly thereafter assumed full ownership.

The Godfrey Moving & Storage Co. includes in its operations a packing and shipping service for persons stationed overseas with the armed forces. It handles this for the entire Ft. Wayne, Ind., Military District.

Creal remembers three hauls that to him are outstanding. The first was the two-van haul of the Beal furniture in 1951 to Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Crossing the strip of water from the mainland to the Vineyard, the ferryboat nearly sank under the load.

The other moves cited were the new Ann Arbor High School and the University Medical Science Building. Creal commented on brilliant tactics on the part of Henry Fonde in organizing the high school move—tactics which shortened the project to a single weekend.

The new ownership group expects to carry out the same functions in "as much the same manner as possible."

Besides this group’s Saginaw branch, which is mainly an accounting office, it operates branches in Lansing, St. Paul, Minn., Sioux Falls, S. D., Los Angeles, Calif., and New York City. Its headquarters are in Franklin Park, Ill.

It employs about 75 persons. In addition, the firm owns 550 moving companies throughout the nation. Godfrey’s of Ann Arbor is the latest acquisition.