Two Young Men Risk All


Charles Kemp was a poor Michigan lad who drifted west.  He sold Ann Arbor newspapers and moved out west to become a cowboy in the Black Hills.  As he relocated in various towns,he drifted into Spokane in 1893.  When he arrived he joined the newly-arrived Henry Hebert who also clerked at the Eugene Buddy Mercantile Company.  Soon they were surprised.  Mr Buddy said he wanted to quit.  The sale to the two young men was quick and cheap.  Buddy had sold the store to his trusted employees.

Kemp and Hebert scraped together $3,000, mostly for inventory and bought him out.  Their original store was at 416 W Riverside Avenue, between Stevens and Washington Streets.  The original store had 6,000 square feet. 

The building at 420 Riverside Avenue was fondly known as the "Green Block" because the building was owned by SK Green, a mining speculator who had hit it rich.  in 1891 the building burned down and was insured for only $15,000.  SK Green rebuilt from his newly found wealth from the rich mine owners of the Payne Noble Five in the Slocan Mining District in Sandon, BC Canada.

Starting in 1896 Kemp and Hebert began to run out of space.  They bought the bankrupt stock of Ross Durstand Merchantile Store down the street for 66 cents on the dollar.  The next year their landlord, SK Green went bankrupt.  The insolvency started a chain of three successive owners during the next 6 years,

 In 1898 they expanded to the Tindall Building next door, spending $2,500.   They now occupied 16,000 square feet.   

In 1903 John Goss the building owner from Portland went bankrupt.  The Green Building was sold for $46,000  to Fred Walker of Rossland, BC.  Walker stated he was planning to increase the rents.

Starting in 1904 Charles Kemp and Herb Hebert started to look for land to build a new store.  Two years later they decided on the Corbin lot at the northwest corner of Main and Washington - one block away.

1897 Fashionable New Houses

The business flourished.   Money was being made and spent.

When Charles Kemp arrived in 1893, he bought a house at 505 East Mission.  He sold it in 1897.  Chuck moved to the fashionable south side merchant neighborhood at 520 Washington  Street.  That would be the future site of the Kemp Apartments, built by his wife.

On September 30, 1897 Herb Hebert moved into his newly built $5,000 house at 2314 W 2nd Avenue.  It was located in the fashionable west end of Browne's Addition near the park.

Both bought Fashionable View Lots

In 1910 Chuck Kemp had made his fortune.   He bought 2 Cliff Park view lots on the cliff for $4,000.  He built a $15,000 house at 404 W Sumner Avenue that same year.  

In 1912 Herb Hebert also bought two very expensive view lots in Cliff Park Addition.  They were at 538 W Sumner and he paid $4,500 for the lots.   They sat vacant for the next 16 years. 

In 1928 Herb Hebert finally built an elegant house overlooking the city, located next to Tom Humbird's mansion. 

The New Store

For the next 11 years they built up a very solid trade

By 1904 as mentioned before they needed more space.  They looked one block north to the Corbin property on the corner of Main and Washington Streets.

The building opened August 15, 1908.  The new store was 5 times bigger and had 85,000 square feet of floor space.  A newspaper story complete with a picture of the building appeared that day.  The story gave  detailed description of each of the four floors.   The new store carried a $275,000 inventory.  The store had giant display windows facing both streets.

By 1909 Kemp and Hebert were so successful that they had become second only to the Crescent Department Store in popularity.    K&H catered to a more middle class crowd in town.


Unexpectedly, Charles Kemp died of a stroke on July 26, 1914 at the age of 56.

Herb Hebert took over the presidency and brought his brother in from Montana to help run the store. 

Maude Kemp was attracted to brother Tom Hebert and three years later she married him.

It was a success story of two energetic men in a successful partnership that endured for decades.





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