Hymen Reader founded Reader’s Wholesale Distributors in 1935. The company has remained a privately owned family business for four generations, passing through the capable hands of Reader, his son-in-law Leonard Burke, his grandson Lucky Burke, and his great-grandson Adam Burke.
Hymen Reader: Founder of Reader’s Wholesale Distributors, Inc.
Mr. Reader began his successful sales career in the jewelry business in California. His sales record was so outstanding that Crosley Appliances offered him a distributorship in Houston, Texas. In 1934, Mr. Reader took the train to Houston, and immediately fell in love with the city. He quit the jewelry business, and agreed to distribute appliances for Crosley. Houston’s new Crosley distributorship was named Reader’s Wholesale Distributors.
Reader’s: Making its Mark on Houston, Texas
In 1935, Reader’s opened for business in a 6,600 square foot building at 1210 Dallas Avenue, and did $265,000 in sales its first year. After three years, the company had outgrown its original warehouse, and it acquired extra space in a nearby railroad warehouse at 1811 Ruiz. That location served the company well for the next five years, but with continued growth, Reader’s needed more space. Mr. Reader purchased an 80,000 square foot warehouse at 414 Washington.
During World War II, restrictions cut off the supply of appliances. Being a savvy businessman, Mr. Reader diversified his product line, building up lines of other merchandise. In the distribution world, word had spread about the success of Reader’s Wholesale Distributors. Jim Binz, the future president of Armstrong Cork Company, came to Houston and offered the Armstrong Distributorship to Reader’s Wholesale. In 1945, Reader’s was named the distributor for the largest manufacturer of hard-surface floor and wall coverings, Armstrong Cork Company. After continued growth, Reader’s Wholesale Distributors moved to its current location at 1201 Naylor in 1954.
Continuing the Family Tradition
From the beginning, family served as the core of the company. Leonard Burke, son-in-law of Mr. Reader, was the company’s general manager, and at 28 years old, headed seventy-five employees. He later became president in 1964 after the death of his father-in law and company founder, Hymen Reader.
Lucky Burke, son of Leonard Burke, grew up working in the family business. After graduating college, he worked for Armstrong for two years, afterward returning to Reader’s as a territory sales manager in 1975. In 1986, he became president of the company, and his father, Leonard Burke, assumed the position of chairman of the board.
Lucky Burke led the company to continued success, and on June 6, 1998, Reader’s employees celebrated the opening of their long anticipated warehouse addition. The additional 40,000 square feet positioned the company for continued growth.
Reader’s Today: The Fourth Generation of Family Leadership
In 2003, Adam Burke, great-grandson of Hymen Reader, joined the company as field sales coordinator. He became the fourth generation of the family to work in the business. In 2011, Adam became president of the company as Lucky assumed the role of Chairman.
Today Reader’s Wholesale Distributors is one of the 20 largest flooring distributors in North America servicing over 2,500 dealers across 3 states.