TRAVERSE CITY — A family’s involvement in a nearly century-old business has officially come to an end.
While the name continues on.
The building that was the home of Walters & Hemming Plumbing and Heating at 421 W. Front St. since 1952 was sold by the Hemming Family Trust to a group of local businessmen in a deal that closed on Tuesday.
Siblings Bill, Ann and Jane Hemming sold the business in late May 2022 to former employees Jason and Christina Rehahn, who moved it to 233 E. 12th St. two months later. The name and business live on at the new location.
But the sale of the recognizable building does close the book on a family business that began in 1926.
“This is the final chapter of the Hemming family involvement in Walters & Hemming spanning the last 97 years and we are very thankful to the Traverse City region for their support,” Liz and Bill Hemming said in an email Wednesday from Jamaica.
Shortly after the sale of the business from the Hemming Trust to the Rehahns, the 421 W. Front St. property and an adjoining parcel at 417 W. Front St. was put on the market. Realtor Scott Hardy of Coldwell Banker Schmidt Commercial Real Estate sold the 6,588-square-foot building on .68 total acres in a deal that closed on Tuesday.
“It’s nice that he (and his partners) are able to smoothly transition into retirement,” Hardy said of the completed transaction, adding its “always nice to retain (a) piece of Traverse City’s history.”
In an email sent from his wife’s phone, Bill Hemming relayed that he was “excited that locals have purchased the building and property on West Front Street and that improvements will be made to the building,”
Bill Hemming and Jane Hemming were both long-tenured at the business. Bill was president of the company from 1972 until its sale in 2022 and sister Jane worked nearly 20 years in the office at the business.
Herman Walters and Charles C. Hemming opened the business in 1926 at 119 Cass St. It was later at 116 E. Front St., the current site of Doug Murdick’s Fudge, before moving to 421 W. Front St. in 1952.
The building was built in 1946 as a Nash Rambler car dealership (Merrill Nash), according to an email from Liz Hemming.
After the business was sold and before it was moved, the 421 W. Front St. building was filled with professional and personal history, according to a July 21, 2022 Record-Eagle article. Hand-painted Day Signs’ with Walters & Hemming’s ‘Little Plumber’ logo hung on the walls, as did several others featuring previous addresses, one with a ‘WI-65212’ phone number for the Windsor exchange.
Bill Hemming’s office on one side of the building is like its own time capsule. There are framed tributes to his grandfather, a World War I veteran who was falsely pronounced as killed in combat in October 1918, and his father Billy C., a World War II pilot who died in 2007. There are also seats from old Briggs and Tigers Stadium.
“There’s a lot of stuff we have to get out of here that has accumulated for the last 70 years,” Hemming said for the 2022 article, speaking of both stuff in the office as well as the warehouse.
That was also why it was important new ownership of Walters & Hemming also had a history.
At the time of the purchase in 2022, Jason Rehahn has worked at Walters & Hemming for 24 years, surpassing the tenure of his father, Dan, by 3 years. Christina and Jason’s mother, Connie, each have a decade at the company.
“Bill is … pleased that the Walters & Hemming business was purchased in May, 2022 by two of his former employees and they will continue serving the Grand Traverse region for many more years,” Liz Hemming said in her email.
Christina Rehahn confirmed on Wednesday the business name will remain in place.
“It’s a family-oriented business,” Christina Rehahn said for the July 21, 2022 article.
“We’re trying to keep the same attitude,” her husband added last July. “We’re all a family. I told them when I took over, ‘I see you guys more than my own family and I probably talk to you more than my family.’
“I’m very honored I have been able to take on the name of the business. It’s an amazing thing.”
Bill Hemming said he was also pleased to see the business name continue.
“I’m very proud that it’s carrying on the name,” he said for the July 2022 article. “It’s been 96 years. It lives on. That’s a great thing.
“We’ve been a member of the Chamber (of Commerce) since 1935. I think we’re the oldest member of the chamber along with Votruba Leather Goods, Petertyl Drug and, I believe, Max’s Service.”
While the property has served the Hemming family well, it was time for the property to be something else.
“It’s an incredible location and when they first moved in there it was an appropriate location,” Hardy said for last summer’s Record-Eagle article. “Over time it’s become more and more valuable as the city has grown and developed.”