Friday, September 18, 2009

How One Family Business Drives a Community

Bruce Stark and Steve Gaynes. Big Enough to Serve You, Small Enough to Know You: 150 Years of Living and Working on Hamburg Cove, Six Generations of the Reynolds Family. 2009.

Ephraim Otis Reynolds (1837-1916) began the Reynolds Family business, one that has lasted six generations in Lyme, Ct. The business began as a carriage business in 1859 on two acres. A general store was added a few years later and continues operating. The carriage business today is an auto dealership.

The carriage business produced 30 carriages in 1873. A new faction increased production to around 50 carriages and wagons annually. Reynolds recognized the changing winds of business as the Studebaker line was grabbing much of the market. Reynolds switched to carriage repair and servicing. By 1890, the carriage component was involved only in repair and service.

Ephraim Reynolds served in the Connecticut state legislature in 1893-4. His eldest son, Hayden Lord Reynolds, (1860-1945) continued the family business. His first job of painting and striping carriages paid 50 cents daily.

Hayden Reynolds opened a shooting gallery in the store basement in 1887. In 1903, summer dances began being held as well. The store became the gathering point for most of the town’s residents. Hayden bought the store from his father in 1909 and H.L. Reynolds Co. began. The store sign remains to this day. Situated near Hamburg Cover off the Connecticut River, a few miles from the Long Island Sound, allowed many good to arrive by boat. A windmill pumped water to the garage and continues working. Hayden served in the state legislature in 1918 and 1923.

Donald Reynolds (1888-1976) was the third generation in the business. Reynolds married Kathryn Harding in 1910. She died in 1949. In 1953, Donald married his late wife’s sister, Tess Harding Peck. Tess had been widowed when her husband William Peck was gored by a pet bull.

Gary Reynolds (b. 1944) now operates the garage. He is assisted by his son Tom, daughter Kathryn Reynolds Wayland, and son Gary.

The Reynolds store is in the heart of town, across from a church. In the 1800s, there were plans to build a train through Lyme with a stop near the Reynolds store in the Hamburg section of Lyme. It was never built. The population of Lyme steadily fell from 1,236 in 1860, 1,025 in 1880, 1,181 in 1900, and 546 in 1930.

In 1870, Lyme had ten businesses, including the carriage factory as well as three sawmills, two boat constructors, a cotton and wool mill, a sorghum mill, a satinet (thin satin) factory, and a blacksmith shop.

A marina and bulkhead were constructed in 1933. A boatshed followed in 1936. The business expanded into marine service in addition to auto repair. A marine railway system was built to bring boats onto dry land.

Gary Reynolds chairs the Lyme Board of Finance. His fiscal concern is recalled when a cemetery committee sought to buy a new dogwood tree to replace one, hoping to match it with a remaining dogwood tree. Gary’s response was “How much to cut the other dogwood tree down?”

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