There for you yesterday, here for you tomorrow

An excerpt from "Celebrating 120 Years of Distributing Confidence. A Look Back from the Beginning."
Written by Barbara Jorgensen
September 2007

Hard work, quality and commitment define Sager over its first century in business.

A CENTURY AGO, the distribution industry as we know it today didn’t exist. A channel that now moves hundreds of millions of electronic devices around the world every day grew from some very modest roots. Some of today’s heavy hitters began by selling surplus radio parts on New York’s now-legendary “Radio Row.” A couple of others were seeded in the oil fields of Texas. Still others sprung from early research labs in California. But only one is the oldest: Sager Electronics.

Sager, now based in Middleborough, MA, bears a few other distinctions from its distribution brethren. For more than a century, it has remained a privately held, family-owned business. It has grown largely through its own efforts and not through acquisitions. And its commitment to quality and services has stood the test of time. In 1978, leading trade publication Electronic Buyers News listed names such as Cramer, Wyle, Schweber, Kierulff, Pioneer-Standard, Hall-Mark, Sterling and Marshall among its Top 50 Largest distributors. By 2007, those names were gone, largely through acquisition. The name “Sager” still remains on various trade-press rankings today.

Sager began as a small shop in Boston, at 32 Faneuil Hall Square, long before Faneuil Hall became the extensive – and expensive - retail space it is today. A young man named James W. Poole hung out a small sign bearing only his name, and inside, Poole sold speaking tubes – devices that transported sound from one room to another – to the public.  Poole’s father, James G. Poole, also ran a separate business out of the Faneuil Hall building.

James W. was 32 when he opened his business – one of five shops in Boston that sold speaking tubes. Boston had only a few islands of electricity when Poole began his business – what is now Boston Edison was only a year old in 1886. In 1887, the first 10 miles of underground electrical cable were installed in Boston – the cost per kilowatt-hour was 25 cents. 

During the next 15 years, Poole’s business, which became known as Electric Gas Lighting Company of Boston, expanded along with the United States, which was riding a wave of industrialization. In 1904, a 14-year old named Joseph E. Sager began his career as an errand boy for Electric Gas Lighting. That same year, Poole’s company moved to 16 Columbia St. in Boston. Boston by then was one of the best-lit cities in the world. 

By the time Joe Sager was 23, he was fully employed by James W. Poole. Like most employees of the time, Joe Sager was hard working, operating on a seven-day workweek. In 1919, James W. Poole died and in 1920, his widow, Eliza, sold the business to Joe Sager.

It was then that Joe Sager began shaping a distribution business similar to those we know today...