In 1893 Adrian Van Kovering started The Zeeland Record which was originally a newspaper and print shop. Three generations later, the Record is still in print with local circulation of 2,000. With the development of technology over the century, the Record has evolved to meet the changing demands of commerce with the best production methods available.
How It All Began
Taken from the writings of Adrian Van Kovering (1874-1960) and continued by family
A local newspaper began in Zeeland in the year 1893 as a sort of prematurely born twin sorely in need of incubation and nourishment during the approximately six years of its plural existence with another newspaper started the following year. During this period there was not room for one newspaper, let alone two. But they struggled on as much for spite as for any other reason, and much because one might as well starve at this diversion as to starve at doing nothing.
This attempt had its inception immediately following the election of President Grover Cleveland the previous fall, which set off four years of economic stagnation the like of which the company had not witnessed before nor since. If one had no food, then he just didn’t eat. The writer of this story worked three weeks loading potatoes into freight cars for three fair meals of food per day as reward, his efforts helping bankrupt the potato shipper.
Because street comers and vacant storefronts were gathering places for idle breadwinners, many with big families, there was no chance for this crippled lad of 19 years to even buy a job. I had suffered a crippling attack of polio at the age of 3 years which severely affected the use of my arm.
In response to my mother’s concern about my involuntary idleness, in January 1893, her uncle, Jacob Den Herder, who was a banker, suggested that I start a job printing business, of which there was none locally, and said that he would finance the venture. This conversation had left an impression, and during the winter of that year I ran across an advertisement of the Kelsey Printing Press Company of Meridan, CT, in one of the magazines, so I decided to try it out as a hobby.
Then I asked for and my grand uncle loaned me $50 that I required to secure this press with its equipment, receiving the press on about April 1, 1893. I set up this hand-lever seven- by 11-inch chase bench press in a store space at 149 E. Main Ave., and painted “Commercial Printing” on the front window.
The first job done was 100 professional business cards for Dr. George H. Baert. He paid me $1 for the cards, but he never was back for more. During the month of September 1893, Mr. Hiram Potts of Grand Haven moved some old used printing equipment into a vacant store building at what is now 207 E. Main. He printed an eight-column folio newspaper at Grand Haven under date of Oct. 1, 1893, two pages patent ready print, entitled “The Zeeland Expositor,” and distributed about 500 copies in Zeeland.
Mr. Potts made that venture upon the solicitation by Cornelius Van Loo, a local politician and community leader. The paper was printed by a Mr. Lewis W. Hartwick, a young man about 25 years of age of Hart, MI who operated the printing plant. “The Zeeland Expositor” continued as a folio sheet, all home print for several months. Half of the news matter appeared in the English language while the other half appeared in Dutch, the latter being mostly editorialized and written by Mr. Van Loo. The Dutch language remained with the paper for three months before Hartwick gained control of the paper.
At the beginning of year 1896, Mr. Hartwick succeeded in interesting Mr. Evert J. Pruim, a Zeeland young man of good standing, and sold him a one-half interest in the newspaper, which they then named “The Zeeland Record.” They then moved the newspaper business and outfit to Mr. Pruim’s vacant building at what is now 50 E. Main Ave. During the month of March 1894, Mr. Alfred Ringe and his wife came to Zeeland from parts unknown, bringing with them a “handful” of used printing equipment and started issuing the “The Zeeland Enterprise,” a weekly newspaper at 122 E. Main Ave. The first issue was dated about April 1, 1894.
This brought newspaper competition into a community that was too small for one newspaper. This was just one year after I had started my job printing venture. Mr. Ringe went to the township clerk and with his assistance he selected some 300 names of responsible residents for his mailing list, sending them “sample” copies of his newspaper. These were the only readers he ever had. After a matter of three months, I think his credit in the local stores was exhausted, for he grew very anxious to sell his newspaper outfit. He gave me a price of $300, but after haggling over it for several days, I offered him $150, which he accepted.
To avert any public idea that I might be responsible for Mr. Ringe’s financial obligations (which I knew he had) locally, I killed off his subscription list, and delayed a new publication about two months. This new newspaper we named “The Weekly News” and the first issue was dated about Oct. 1, 1894, which newspaper we continued regularly until it was combined with the “The Zeeland Record” at the close of the year 1899.
In the fall of 1897, my parents sold the store building at 149 E. Main Ave. and purchased the house and lean-to at 211 E. Main Ave. Both the photographing business, operated by my brother, William, and the newspaper business were then moved to that location.
During the summer of 1898 a new two-story addition was built onto the rear of the lean-to at 211 E. Main Ave. which then served to accommodate both the photography gallery and the newspaper. Later the same summer the lean-to was wrecked and a new store built extending to and facing on East Main Avenue. That same fall, both the photography gallery and the newspaper occupied the second floor while the ground floor was rented to a merchant.
By the year 1910 our shop space had become overcrowded, which caused us to look for larger and better quarters. At that time a demand arose for the opening of South Elm Street, on the site of which facing Main Street, was located the old drug store of Mr. Dick Van Bree. He had built a new store for his own use adjoining the west line of the proposed new street, leaving his old store vacant.
After some urging by the business interests of the community, we bought the old store with the provision that it be located at the rear of Mr. Van Bree’s new store, facing it east on South Elm Street. This old building was moved to 14 S. Elm St. and reconditioned. The Zeeland Record Co. bought the building and moved into it in the fall of 1911, where it conducted its business for the following 14 years.
During those 14 years the Zeeland Record acquired several Sunday School publications and “The Modem Poultry Breeder.” The publication of the poultry magazine crowded both our shop space and facilities to the bursting point. So we constructed a new shop adjoining our old building on the south, to become known as 16-22 S. Elm St. This is a new one-story brick building,85 by 166 feet, the front 16 feet facing on South Elm Street serving as offices while the rear is one shop room. The new building was constructed during the summer of 1925.
In the fall of 1955 I sold the business to my two sons – George Van Koevering, who was named editor, and Cornelius, who was named general manager. This partnership continued until l958 when George left the business to become a lobbyist for the Michigan Railroad in Lansing.
Corey was joined in by his sons, Keith and Paul, they finished studying printing at Carnegie Mellon University. Keith and Paul converted the business to offset printing and reestablished the business as a commercial printer. Keith died of a heart attack in 1985. The business entered the fourth generation when Paul’s son, Kurt, joined the business in 1984 after graduating from Hope College. Kurt was joined by his brother, Kraig, in 1991.