Member Spotlight: Benjamin Supply Preserving History

by Guest Blogger, Monica Surfaro Spigelman As Tucson temps continue to top 100, there’s a story to tell about Tucson’s ice business and the efforts of visionary businesses like Benjamin Supply to preserve local heritage.

Benjamin Supply old photoFrom the late 19th century through World War II, cities like Tucson looked to the ice business for ways to refresh. Before refrigeration for the masses became a reality, staying cool and preserving food meant a boom for the ice business in Tucson.

Many of the ice houses were based downtown, congregated around the Arroyo Chico wash. Ice houses like Home Ice and Coal Company, producing blocks of ice it delivered on routes throughout the city, had its headquarters and a fleet of yellow trucks along 7th Avenue near the railroad tracks. The Home warehouse was impressive-- its huge tower was a distinguishing detail designed by the architect Brown in1919. Then, famed architect Josias Joesler redesigned the warehouse as a solid concrete icehouse in the 1930s, the first non-wooden warehouse of its kind in the city. When refrigeration took hold, warehouses like Home Ice deteriorated. It took historic preservation (and the foresight of businesses like Benjamin Supply) to help revive them.

modern B&W Ben SuppBenjamin Supply is the 62-year-old family-owned enterprise that is both distributor and seller of highest-quality decorative plumbing and hardware, serving Southern Arizona’s commercial and residential customers. In 1986, Benjamin Supply purchased the Home building (which by the 1950s had been swallowed up by Arizona Ice and then Tucson Warehouse & Transfer Company). A downtown preservation advocate, Mark Berman and his family’s Benjamin Supply plumbing business retained the architectural qualities of the Joesler-designed warehouse and its tall tower, incorporating history while constructing a state-of-the-art 10,000 square-foot showroom and a warehouse complex of 50,000 square feet with the largest inventory in the region.

If you’re looking to renovate a bathroom with the right toilets, shower and tubs options or lavatory and faucet choices, visit Benjamin Supply’s impressive showroom. While there, ask an associate or owner Mark Berman, who also has training in architecture, to point out the massive ice chute and capped well once fed by the Arroyo Chico. These bits of Tucson history are still visible, thanks to the preservation efforts of businesses like Benjamin Supply.

Localmonica First Arizona guest blogger Monica Surfaro Spigelman writes about localism, technology, business and culture. She is owner of marketing firm Tucson Cowgirl Communications. She also is folk arts director for Tucson Meet Yourself. Monica, a NYC transplant with credentials in corporate communications, non-profit marketing and journalism, looks forward to connecting with fellow small businesses!