Jacobs Brothers

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National Sports Patrons, Sportservice Founders

In business, and in sports, success often flows from finding a niche, and fulfilling a specific need better than competitors. As spectator sports and mass entertaining began to flourish early in this century, three brothers from Buffalo discovered that satisfying the hunger and slaking the thirst of patrons at theaters and ballparks could be profitable. The title of a 1968 Buffalo Evening News series “An Empire Built on Peanuts” captures not only the simplicity of the concept, but also the fact that from humble beginnings hawking peanuts and popcorn at local theaters, brothers Marvin, Charles and Louis Jacobs created a sports concession empire. Today, Sportservice spans the globe, bringing customers a constant variety of food and drink at dozens of stadiums and arenas (including Marine Midland Arena and the Rich Stadium suites and fieldhouse), race tracks and airports in the United States, Canada and the Pacific Rim.

Founded in 1915 by the enterprising Jacobs brothers, Sportservice, Inc. has established its primary influence in professional sports. In the beginning, the business operation consisted of little more than a plank spanning two barrels from which peanut sales took place. The company’s true breakthrough came in 1927, when Louis Jacobs landed a contract to provide concessions for the Detroit Tigers. On the strength of the brothers’ salesmanship and business acumen, Sportservice eventually became a fixture in over a dozen major league ballparks. Airport concessions followed, and in the 1950s and 1960s, the business took off acquiring contracts with National Basketball Association and National Hockey League teams as well. Eventually, the company founded by the Jacobs grew into Delaware North Companies, Inc., with seven distinct subsidiaries (including Sportservice) whose influence extends far beyond the realm of sports. Sportservice’s foothold in major league baseball was the result of the Jacob’s reputation for honest, fair dealing. The reputation was born of an episode, now legendary, whereby Louis Jacobs presented the owners of the Detroit Tigers with a $12,500 check after a particularly profitable year selling concessions. Jacobs felt that the Tigers had made a bad bargain with Sportservice, and should share the unanticipated wealth. This generous gesture came back to Sportservice onehundredfold, in the form of additional vending contracts, and the financial assistance which enabled Sportservice to weather the dark times of the Depression.

Baseball’s loyalty for the Jacobs brothers was rewarded on many occasions. The Jacobs’ baseball benefactors included Connie Mack’s 1950s Athletics teams. Assistance from the Jacobs enabled Bill Veeck, one of baseball’s great innovators and promoters, to thrive as owner of the Cleveland Indians, and later the Chicago White Sox. In addition, it is no exaggeration to state that the Jacobs brothers twice saved baseball in Buffalo. The Jacobs were part of a local group which purchased the failing Bison franchise and built Offerman Stadium in 1921. The Jacobs also stepped in with financial help throughout the difficult 1950s; the resuscitated franchise won a title in 1958. Today, CEO Jeremy Jacobs carries on a proud family tradition begun by his father Louis and his uncles, and he hopes his company remains forever as a part of the national sports landscape.