In 1930, shortly after “The Great Crash” of 1929, Gem Chemical Co. was founded by Frank M. Curry. Mr. Curry had been a Sales Manager for Sun Oil Co. and had previously been a top salesman for a large food chain.
From 1930 to 1950, Gem Supply grew incrementally each year. By 1950, the growing Central Florida company was a force to be reckoned with making deliveries to customers on its own trucks in seven central Florida counties; Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake, Volusia, Brevard and Marion. Old records indicate that business was also conducted in other parts of the state and out of state with deliveries done by rail.
A 1950's photo shows Gem Supply's booth at the Central Florida Fair. Note that at that time chemicals were packed in brown glass jugs.
Gem was featuring a product called Sept-O-Solve, a product advertised as a cesspool or septic tank conditioner.
In the booth there is also a display of Pine Oil, the best selling cleaner of the times.
An article by Tom Hills in “Maintenance Supplies” magazine in August of 1973 said that Gem Supply, then known as Gem Chemical Co. “was the oldest of its type in Florida”.
By 1970, the then 71 year old Curry had grown his business to almost $400,000.00 annually. That would represent about $2 to $3 million in annual sales in 2010 dollars.
It was time for expansion and Gem Chemical moved to 437 W. Central Avenue. Gem completely remodeled and renovated an old warehouse site from top to bottom. Gem’s new facility included offices, a showroom and a warehouse and was 9,000 sq. ft.
In 1975 a young enterprising Dutch Owens purchased Gem Chemical Co. from Frank Curry who was ready to retire. Dutch had grown up in the cleaning industry. His father, Paul Owens, ran a successful janitorial service co. called AAA Janitorial Services.
The young, aggressive and likeable new owner soon became one of the main suppliers to the newly opened “Magic Walt Disney World”.
By 1987, Gem Chemical Co. had become known as Gem Supply and had moved into its present site at 1312 W. Washington St. in Orlando, FL.
The 63,000 sq. ft building hosts a Continuing Education Center for cleaning professionals as well as offices, warehouse, and Central Florida’s largest janitorial showroom and wholesale outlet. It is known as the world’s only drive-in janitorial supply company.
In 2006 Gem opened its second wholesale outlet in Kissimmee Florida. This allowed us to effectively service our customers in the Osceola and outlying county areas.
It was in 2007 that Gem acquired Janitorial Industrial Maintenance Supply Company (JIMS) in Lakeland, Florida. JIMS was a super service provider in the Polk and surrounding county areas, making it a great cultural fit for GEM.
It was in January of 2008 that Gem merged with Zagers Brand in the Tampa market, continuing Gem’s westward treck across Florida. In December of 2009, Gem moved into its fourth wholesale outlet on Himes Avenue in Tampa.
The concise growth and expansion of Gem has been strategic and without incurring debt. This has been a real blessing in the economic trials of today. We look forward to continuing our expansion throughout Florida to better serve our valued customers.