BLOOMINGTON After 91 years and three generations of family, Paxton's Inc. will close its doors on Dec. 23.
"We've been unprofitable for the last few years," said owner Jay Paxton, whose grandfather, Jay Warren Paxton, and great-uncle, G. Noble Paxton, founded the Bloomington office furniture supplier in 1914.
"It's not competition with the OfficeMaxes or anything like that," Paxton said. "It's just the volume is so low we can't sustain the business."
Earlier this year, Paxton sold his equipment division to Peoria-based Digital Copying System. DCS will remain in the building at 207 E. Washington St., selling copiers, faxes and other equipment, though Paxton plans to sell it.
Currently, only seven people work at Paxton's, Paxton said. At one time, the company employed 22 people.
But the company came a long way in 91 years.
Opening under the name Paxton Typewriter Exchange in 1914, the Paxton brothers had a small box of typewriter parts and $20 in capital. They soon signed a deal with Royal Typewriter Co.
They later changed the name because farmers took the word "exchange" literally. Farmers wanted to trade anything from phonograph records to sewing machines for typewriters.
"We did trade a typewriter for a bicycle, which improved our delivery system 100 percent in the summer," Jay Warren Paxton was quoted as saying at an anniversary gathering in 1964.
With a fresh new delivery method and the growth of a young insurance business, Paxton's expanded from typewriters to office furniture and business equipment like copiers, cash registers and fax machines.
In the early 1920s, George J. Mecherle purchased his first desk and chair from Paxton's. From that chair, Mecherle watched his creation, State Farm Insurance Cos., grow into a national giant.
"The biggest reason we've been in business and stayed in business, to be honest with you, is State Farm Insurance," Paxton said.
Throughout the years, State Farm remained close with the Paxtons. In the 1960s, Paxton's launched a program allowing State Farm agents to purchase discounted furniture.
To this day, a recorded message answers Paxton's phone: "Thank you for calling Paxton's. ?| For the State Farm Agents Program, press 207. For other inquiries, press zero."
Of course, the Paxton machine began churning before the deal with State Farm.
As part of its deal with Royal Typewriter, Royal had run ads in Fortune, Newsweek, Business Week and National Business magazines, dubbing Paxton's the oldest member of the Royal family in America.