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Must-See RVA! — Simpson, Bass & Co.

A look into the history of Richmond places that are still part of our landscape.



AKA, Simpson, Warner, & Bass
1205-1207 East Cary Street
Built, 1865

Like so many other businesses, this commission merchant house for hay, grain, flour, and mill feed was founded in the aftermath of the Civil War.

In all there are eighteen or twenty Wholesale Grocery Houses in Richmond. Of these, perhaps, seven or eight are of note for size. One concern here, which, however, ranks considerably ahead of all the others, has something like twenty-five salesmen on the road in its interest.

(LOC) — Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Richmond (1905) — Plate 16

The territory covered may be said to embrace the whole South, but the bulk of the business is done in Virginia, the Carolinas, and parts of Georgia. These wholesale grocery concerns of Richmond draw their supplies from many cities, both in the North and South. The packed and manufactured goods received here from the Northern manufacturers are made mainly in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Baltimore. From New York, too, is obtained the imported goods received here.

[RVCJ03] — 1205-1207 East Cary Street, circa 1903

Then from such southern cities as Savannah, New Orleans, and, in fact, from different points in Louisiana, the staples — rice, molasses and sugar—are procured, as well as from the North. Great quantities of packed California fruits are also sold through this market. Almost all the canned fruits handled by the wholesale grocers of Richmond, in fact, are California products. Besides the regular grocery line, which includes here canned fruits and vegetables, mustards, spices, olives, baking powders, yeast, coffee, sugar, syrups, rice, tea and so forth.

(Rocket Werks RVA Postcards) — Simpson, Bass & Co. price quote

There are several houses in this line which carry large and complete stocks of liquors and cigars and two or three of them do a big business in tobaccos as well. Fancy groceries and confectionery go together here; most of the houses of this class handle cigars and tobacco also. In the making of candy four factories are engaged here and their selling territory is Richmond and the same territory pretty much outside Richmond covered by the jobbing grocers.

(Find A Grave) — Captain Lucien Lloyd Bass, sporting whiskers that say “I got your mustache right here”

For the two lines combined, i. e., groceries and fancy groceries, the following figures have been compiled: hands employed, four hundred and fifty; capital invested, $1,900,000 and total yearly sales about $8,000,000. Of this total number of employees about one hundred are traveling salesmen. Including the liquor and provision trade of the whole sale grocers of the city (lines running somewhat together) the total is something between $17,000,000 and $20,000,000. [RVCJ03]

[RVCJ03] — 1205-1207 East Cary Street, showing parapet

Simpson, Bass & Co. actually began life as Simpson, Warner, & Bass, managed by Messrs. Charles H Simpson, N. B. Warner, and Lucien Lloyd Bass. Warner died soon after the company’s founding on January 6, 1869, and the company was renamed to Simpson, Bass & Co., adding G. F. Simpson to the roster. (Chronicling America)

As to the building where they plied their trade, Robert Winthrop describes it as having one of the most imaginative brick cornices in the city, where the brick mason seems to have done all that can be done with brick. [ADR] Apart from the removal of the decorative parapet, the exterior remains the same as when it was built, an overlooked fixture on East Cary Street, right across the alley from Tobacco Company.

(Simpson, Bass & Co. is part of the Atlas RVA Project)


  • [RVCJ03] Richmond, Virginia: The City on the James: The Book of Its Chamber of Commerce and Principal Business Interests. G. W. Engelhardt. 1903.


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