Milestones Of The B.E. 100s

A look at a quarter-century of major events which shaped the growth of the nation's largest black-owned businesses

the fastest growing sectors for companies on the list was the health and beauty aids industry–driven largely by the curly, wet-look hair-style craze called the Jheri curl. Established concerns including Atlanta’s M&M Products, Chicago’s Johnson Products and Dallas-based Pro- Line Corp. were joined by Soft Sheen Products. Also based in Chicago, the newcomer arrived in style as the largest maker of hair care products on the list, with revenues of $55 million.

The 1983 Companies of the Year: Los Angeles-based Willie Davis Distributing Co., First Independent National Bank of Detroit, Major Federal Savings & Loan Association in Cincinnati and Augusta, Georgia- based Pilgrim Health & Life Insurance Co.

Interesting fact: Three BE 100 companies became the first ever to break the $100 million barrier in annual revenues: Motown Industries with $104.3 million, H.J. Russell Construction Inc. with $103.85 million end Johnson Publishing Co. Inc. with $102.65 million.

1984: Gross sales for the BE 100 rose to $2.329 billion. But the big news was Johnson Publishing Co. dethroning Motown from the No. 1 ranking on the list, a position the legendary entertainment company had enjoyed since the list’s inception in 1973. Johnson Publishing’s magazine publishing, television broadcasting and cosmetics businesses generated sales of $118 million against Motown’s $108 million.

The big winners on the 1984 list were the auto dealerships, media and entertainment companies and makers of hair care products. The major losers: Energy and fuel distribution businesses, thanks largely to a glut in the oil markets, which drove down prices too low for smaller oil companies to profitably compete. The result: Once robust oil companies were barely able to stay in business, much less qualify for the list. For example, New York’s Wallace & Wallace Enterprises Inc., once ranked as high as No. 2 on the BE 100, dropped to No. 84.

The 1984 Companies of the Year: West Caldwell, N.J.-based Henderson Industries (a maker of electronic components), New Orleans-based Liberty Bank & Trust, Dwelling House Savings & Loan Association of Pittsburgh and Booker T. Washington Life Insurance Co., one of several Birmingham, Alabama-based businesses run by the legendary Arthur G. Gaston–then 92 years old.
Chicago’s Seaway National Bank regains the top spot among the nation’s black commercial banks.

Most revealing quote: “Not many white people are ready to do business with a black firm on a day-to-day basis. Even today, our door-to-door salesmen moving around in the white community would create some anxieties–it would be hazardous to our health. It’s still not a free market per se.”–National Insurance Association President Patricia Shaw, “The Steady Security of Booker T. Washington,” BE, June 1984.

1985: Sales for the BE 100 rose to $2.329 billion. Porterfield Wilson Pontiac-GMC Truck-Mazda moves into the lead as the nation’s largest black-owned dealership with sales of $42 million. Seaway National Bank of Chicago reclaims the ti
tle of the nation’s largest black-owned commercial bank.

The 1985 Companies of the Year were the Barfield Companies (a Ypsilanti, Michigan-based auto parts supplier), Atlanta’s Citizen’s Trust Bank, Advance Federal Savings & Loan Association of Baltimore and Chicago Metropolitan

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