Ernst immigrated from Celle Germany around 1849. St. Louis was an attractive place to settle at the time. It was a large city with a lot of opportunities! Ernst was a master craftsman and more importantly an ivory turner of high skill. Seeing the demand he quickly set up shop.
His shingle read:
Ernst Schmidt Ivory Turner and Dealer in Ivory Billiard Balls, Ten Pin Balls and Smoking Pipes
By all accounts his business was successful, he was a craftsman and thought like one. While he could speak English, most of his instructions were written on a chalkboard in German. He had very old world idea’s and proved it when he brought his son Oscar into the business at age five to learn the trade (a tradition that still continues today). It was very much a working man’s type of existence, much like a plumber, electrician or other trade. Very little thought was given to the future, and he was content to get a project, complete it and move on to the next part to make. That was all about to change!
Read on, most companies are doomed when the founder turns over the keys to the second generation—but Oscar would prove to be an exception to the rule!
Oscar took the ivory turning business and expanded it to include woodworking. He apprenticed and learned how to build pool tables. Thanks to his talent the company began to expand into the manufacturing and repairing of pool tables. Oscar realized that bars were the perfect place for his type of sturdy pool tables and he also realized that those tables would need frequent repairs. The company began to grow under his direction and he began training his sons, Edwin and Ernest to put their own stamp on the business.
The third generation of Schmidt men were very diverse in their talents. Ed was a marketing and sales genius. Thanks to his creation of a mail-order catalog, the company began to grow once again. Ernie had his own special talents. The factory was where Ernie was most at home and he began designing new tables to add to the line. Both men realized the importance of owning their own building and created a separate family-owned real estate business. Thanks to the thriftiness instilled by their father and grandfather, the two brothers were able to survive the Great Depression.
The fourth generation of the family relied on two of Ed’s sons to move the business forward. Harold and Arthur continued the family tradition of working weekends and summers for the business as they were growing up. Fortunately, these two brothers also had different areas that they were interested in. Harold was an excellent salesman and enjoyed being on the road developing the business. Art was more office-oriented although he was the person most responsible for bringing bumper pool to the United States. Art was also instrumental in supporting two major trade groups, The Billiard Congress of America and the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America. Eventually, Harold would move to Little Rock, Arkansas and start his own billiard retail business and Art would take the helm of A. E. Schmidt Company.
The fifth generation was also brought up to love work. While all of Art’s children worked for the company at one time or another, it was Kurt who had the greatest passion for business. His gift is in the designing of tables and he expanded the line of tables the company manufactured and began establishing a nationwide dealer network. At this time he continues to lead the company. Harold’s children continue working at their Little Rock store and at a retail store in Columbia, Missouri.
Just like the 4th and 5th generation, the 6th generation has been working at the company doing small jobs here and there since they were young. Currently the 6th generation is helping increase the wholesale production of the 5th generation and bringing the company into the digital age. Each of Kurt & Karen’s kids have there own passions and strengths within the company. Michael oversees the factory and makes sure production goes smoothly, Stephanie excels at selling and handles most of our wholesale operations, and Rachel is passionate about designing tables and the behind the scene analytical work.