C. D. Kenny Co.

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The C. D. Kenny Co. was a Baltimore, Maryland-based importer of tea and coffee founded by Cornelius David Kenny in 1872. The company roasted and sold its products, alongside sugar, baking soda, rice, Walter Baker's chocolates, and spices., at a chain of retail stores which spread across the South.

The company opened its first Alabama store at 214 20th Street North in late March 1891, with John T. Patton as manager. The interior was electrically lit and decorated with, "imported Chinese views on the walls." Coffee was ground for customers in the store. Kenny contributed a wagon to the grand parade of carriages processing across the newly-opened 21st Street Viaduct on July 4 of that year. The company regularly offered keepsake calendars and lithographs of holiday scenes as promotional items.

Patton died from an apparent heart attack at age 40 in 1901 and was succeeded by Martin Gleason. Kenny himself died in Baltimore in December 1902. The business passed to his second wife, Fannie, and was managed by her brother, Hamilton Fant, who was formally named president in 1930.

On December 28, 1904 C. D. Kenny's Birmingham store was damaged in a major fire which started at the nearby Reliance Restaurant. The business reported a nearly total loss of stock, estimated at $6,000, but was fully insured. The store reopened immediately in temporary quarters at 219 19th Street North, ready to take orders. The company opened a brand new store on April 1, 1905 at 319 20th Street North. By June another C. D. Kenny Store was opened at 1928 2nd Avenue North in Bessemer. In January 1910 Gleason was arrested and charged with embezzlement of $5,200 from the store. He was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, but on appeal the Alabama State Supreme Court ruled that the prosecution had failed to establish the facts of the crime. The scheduled re-trial was nolle prossed in 1913.

In October 1910 the downtown C. D. Kenny store moved to 1920 4th Avenue North with Harry Brumback as manager. In April 1915 the company rented the former J. C. Marks Liquor Co. space in the Victor Realty Building at 2024 2nd Avenue North. In 1916 the C. D. Kenny was operating a second downtown store at 330 18th Street North. That location closed in September 1918. The Bessemer store reopened at 214 19th Street North before 1928.

Hit hard by the Great Depression, the C. D. Kelly Company closed its retail stores in 1935. The company's Birmingham operations moved to a warehouse at 1629–1631 1st Avenue North, with all retail employees offered positions in the new business. The company continued to successfully import tea, coffee, sugar and spices for grocery stores and wholesale customers. It was acquired by Nathan Cummings' Consolidated Food Corporation of Chicago in 1939 and continues to operate as Sara Lee.


  • Teas
    • Kenny's Special Ceylon
    • Kenny's Extra Flowery Pekoe
    • Kenny's "Che-on"
    • Ko-Ko
    • Yum-Yum Chops
  • Coffees
    • Java & Mocha blend
    • Kenny's Special Blend
    • Miami Blend (distributed to grocery stores)
    • Norwood Coffee (distributed to grocery stores)
    • Radiant Coffee (wholesale)