Palm Beach County's oldest business, Lainhart and Potter, may go belly up

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Lainhart and Potter building materials opened  its doors in 1893, one year before the official founding of West Palm Beach. 

"As a matter of fact, George Potter actually surveyed the core of West Palm Beach in 1893 for Henry Flagler.  Clematis street, Banyan, and several streets south," said Richard Marconi, the Curator of Education for the Palm Beach County Historical Society.

Since that time, many changes have come, both to the city, and its first business.  When the economy first took a dive five years ago, Lainhart and Potter took quite a hit.

"We've had hard times, which have lasted a lot longer than we expected.  A lot longer than we could hold out.  Our niche was doing custom home remodeling in Palm Beach," said Jere Leffler, President of Lainhart and Potter.  

That niche market quickly disappeared, when Madoff, made off with millions. 

"You might say it was a perfect storm of economic decline," said Leffler.

The storm is now over, but the damage left behind, may prove irreparable. 

"We had a bank that foreclosed on our property.  We filed for bankruptcy protection, to keep that from happening," said Leffler.

Leffler cut staff and now must auction off the company's property in the hopes of keeping a one-hundred and nineteen year old business afloat. 

Lainhart and Potter will remain open for business until the April fifth auction.  But the historic home supply store isn't closing the door on their future, they'll be looking for a new space to lease, to continue over a century of service to Palm Beach County.  Whether or not the business itself manages to clear this latest hurdle, the memory of Lainhart and Potter will last.

 "The exhibit will go on, and we will continue talking about Lainhart and Potter because they have had such an impact on the history of our county," said Marconi.

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