Ernst Kern Co.

The Ernst Kern Dry Goods Company, originally located at 161 St. Antoine in Detroit, was established in 1883 by the father of Ernst and Otto Kern. Ernst, born 1875 in Germany, and Otto, born 1878 in Germany, came to the United States with their parents in 1883. In 1886, the store was consumed by fire and was rebuilt at Randolph and Monroe, and by 1900 the Kerns purchased a five story building at Woodward and Gratiot to accommodate increasing business.

Following the passing of their father, the two brothers took over the business in 1901; Ernst as president and manager, and Otto as secretary and treasurer. After World War I, additional space was once again needed for expansion, and the brothers acquired the adjoining nine story Weber Building. In 1929, the store was demolished and a new store was erected in September 1929.

Ernst Kern passes away in 1948 and his brother Otto took over as president, buying all the stock from his brotherís estate. Ottoís sons, Richard and Ernst, joined their father in management of the business. However, in 1957 the family decided to sell Ernst Kern Co., one of Detroitís three largest department stores, to Sattlerís Inc. of Buffalo, New York. Following numerous corporate problems and changes in management, the store closed its doors for the final time on December 23, 1959.

In 2003 Compuware, which owns the old Ernst Kern department store building, had the original Kernís clock restored and returned it to its original location on the corner of Woodward and Gratiot Avenues.


Marquis, Albert Nelson. The Book of Detroiters: A Bibliographical Dictionary of Leading Men of the City of Detroit. Chicago: A.N. Marquis, 1908.