Business Beginnings

1933 Downtown Zeeland

Early Businesses

Only a few months after the arrival of the settlers from the Netherlands, the first business was established. Johannes Hoogesteger provided the first general store. Supplies for this store were brought by flatboat from Grand Rapids down the Grand River. Though short-lived, this store stood as the first enterprise in Zeeland.

Zeeland Brick Company

The yards of the Zeeland Brick Company were started in 1848 by M.J. Veneklasen. The brick-making industry was an important enterprise in the early colonial days and, though its beginnings were small, it soon grew into the largest industry of its kind within the state.


Prior to the 1900's, Zeeland harbored saloons in its business district. Around the turn of the century the citizens of Zeeland voted in favor of a "no liquor" law determining that Zeeland would be "dry." The early Dutch settlers, though not so strict about drinking, did appear to hold reservations regarding movies, for the city of Zeeland has never in its history given license to house a movie theater.

Closed for Business on Sundays

In keeping with their respect for traditional Sunday observance, Zeeland merchants closed their doors to business on the first day of the week. The local custom of drawing the shades over the store windows were a reflection of the merchant's desire to limit the temptation of the citizens to window-shop or covet some item on display.

Friday Concerts

Friday nights often found the townspeople dressed in their best to attend an hour and a half concert in the northwest park on the corner of Church and Central Avenue where a band stand was erected.

Business Leader Vande Luyster

Business leader of the Zeeland Colony, Vande Luyster purchased 1680 acres of land from the United States government, choosing the site where Zeeland is now located. Eighty acres were set aside in the center as the village, four-and-a-half acres were designated for a church, school, market place and cemetery. His diary records the naming of the village Zeeland "because it was founded by Zeelanders, who called upon the name of the Lord to prosper His work and that His name might be called upon there forever."