The Columbus-based company got its start as an underground railroad.
It began in 1881 as a two-horse and buggy operation, hauling runaway slaves, delivering them to freedom. Today, some 140 years later, E.E. Ward Moving and Storage has grown into a multi-million-dollar company and one of the most successful businesses in the state of Ohio.
But over the decades, E.E. Ward came to earn an even greater distinction: the oldest Black-owned business in the United States. From its early days along the underground railroad, to its present-day headquarters in Columbus, this iconic moving and storage company has etched a permanent place in the annals of American and Black history.
Its success is due to generations of Wards, who have shepherded the company through the test of time, driven by core values of servitude and helping others. Their remarkable story serves as an inspiration for our entire industry, but also as an important reminder to the struggle and hardships that Black Americans have endured and continue to overcome throughout our nation’s long journey toward a more perfect union.
As we celebrate Black History Month, we’re proud to call E.E. Ward Moving and Storage part of our ATA family and vital members of our formed Moving and Storage Conference. We recently caught up with the company’s current owner, Brian Books, to discuss his family’s cherished legacy and their keys to perseverance:
140 years is some serious staying power. What has been E.E. Ward Moving & Storage’s keys to longevity and success?
We attribute our longevity and success to a core value of "delivering services as promised". Those are not the exact words of John T. Ward, but the phrase embodies that mindset of his son, grandson and great grandson who were at the helm for 120 years. The Ward Family focus was on the customer and providing the best customer experience possible, and they knew that if they provided a service that people would talk and brag about, it would bring the next customer.
How does the legacy of John T. Ward live on through E.E. Ward today?
There is a motto that lived through the generations of the Ward Family: "Let Ward Do It". This phrase is just one of the many gems of history that we recognize and cherish on a daily basis at E.E. Ward. Our story of 14 decades of entrepreneurship and perseverance is valued by every team member at E.E. Ward, and we look to our history as inspiration to strengthen the legacy at every moment we get.
What advice would you give today to someone who’s just starting in the moving and storage business?
The advice I would give is to focus on the core principles that make you stand out from competition. Find your niche and focus on customers that are assets to your business.
The story of E.E. Ward has deep roots in Black and American history. What message would you share with those celebrating BHM throughout February?
Black History Month is ceremonious and a nice gesture of acknowledgement to the countless number of black people who have worked hard and at times sacrificed to help the betterment of all people.
However, all the hard work and sacrifice did not happen in one month out of the year -- it happened every day of the year. I am hopeful that one day acknowledgment of Black History is ceremoniously recognized all year.