By Reggie Ellis
lindsay – Saturday, Jan. 28 was a bittersweet moment for Henry Brower. He was named Lindsay’s 2016 Man of the Year and announced that he will return as president of the Lindsay Chamber of Commerce for a third straight year. It’s a lot to handle for someone who likes to work behind the scenes, and following a difficult year.
Henry closed two businesses during 2016, one a fixture of downtown for 44 years and the other part of the landscape of local agriculture for the last 25 years. On Aug. 30, Henry closed down Lindsay Auto Parts, the local NAPA dealer at 173 S. Elmwood Ave. in Lindsay. He purchased the business in 2010 from Bob Kisling, Lindsay’s 1996 Man of the Year, who was retiring. Kisling purchased the business in 1972 when it was known as Orange Belt Supply Tire Company. He renamed Bob Kisling Auto Parts in 1976 and eventually became affiliated with the NAPA Auto Parts chain. A classic car lover, Henry was already a customer and decided he wanted to invest in downtown Lindsay.
“It wasn’t a money maker and there was a lot of work for little return,” he said.
Brower moved to Lindsay 25 years ago when his father relocated his 700-cow Ed Brower Dairy from Escondido, Calif. Henry decided to leave the dairy business last year and auctioned off his herd and closed down one of the family’s dairies. A second dairy is still operated by his brothers Ed and John.
“I probably could move and find something else, but I know a lot of people and am invested in Lindsay,” Henry said. “The people here work hard and the town hasn’t had many breaks their way, but I don’t have any desire to move away. I want to work toward a brighter future.”
Despite closing down his own business, Henry said the downtown just needs a few foothold stores to turn things around. He said many of the vacant buildings are now owned by the city and hopes that something can be done to fill them with retailers, such as deferring rent while they get their footing. He said the city has taken risks with buildings like McDermont Field House and the Lindsay Wellness Center and they have paid off. He said now it’s time to take risks for small businesses.
“We just need one vibrant store and then we can work our way down the block,” Henry said. “I think projects like the Dollar General store would help create jobs and be the start of fixing up one area at a time.”
While he no longer owns a business, Henry and wife of 25 years, Frances, are just as involved in town as ever. Frances helped found The Spirit of the Bride Kingdom coalition church in town, which is involved in events such as the Posada and Lighted Christmas Parade in December, Easter events and the Harvest Festival. Held annually on Halloween, the Harvest Festival is a safe way for kids to trick-or-treat by offering free admission to the McDermont Field House for carnival games, bounce houses and a costume contest.
“I’m more of a behind the scenes guy,” said the 48-year-old Henry. “But I love seeing community events and things like ribbon cuttings. I get excited whenever a new business comes to town. We just don’t have enough of them.”
Community involvement is about the only hobby Henry has time for as he and Frances have 10 children. Henry said they both wanted a large family and after having three of their own decided to adopt seven more. Those seven consisted of two sets of siblings of three and four children. The children range in age from 15-24 with two in high school, three in college and two that are married. Henry and Frances also have four grand children.
“There are a lot of ups and downs but there is always a lot of fun,” Brower said. “There’s never a dull moment in our house.”
The father of 10 kids is also looking for work. After running his own business, both the dairy and auto parts, for 25 years, he said he is looking for management position at a company with which he can grow.