Our grandfather and namesake, Ed Heilman, was a man determined to meet any challenge. He was a salesman for Kansas City White Goods when the Great Depression hit. Struggling to make ends meet, he took up boxing—under the name “Ace”—at area clubs to earn some extra cash. When KC White Goods began laying off employees, Ed and my grandmother, Clara, decided to start a linen supply business on the side.
In 1932, with $1,800 in savings, Clara bought bolts of fabric and began sewing towels. The “production floor” consisted of a small washing machine, sewing machine and hand iron in the couple’s basement. They named their new business Ace Linen Service. After a day’s work at KC White Goods, Ed would go door to door seeking customers for Ace. Their first customer was the neighborhood corner grocer. Ed’s motto was “always do business on a first-name basis,” and his hands-on mentality helped grow the business, despite the economic plight. Eventually Ace linen expanded its services to include clothing, cleaning and restroom supplies.
During the Yellow Pages’ glory days, Ace Linen was renamed AAA Linen to optimize its placement in the directory. Our family would later buy Shepherd’s Linen and Uniform Supply in Texas, though we maintained the name Shepherd’s because, having been around since the 1800s, it was a well-established and trusted brand in the Texas market. In 2007, in honor of the 75th anniversary of my grandparents’ company, we decided to get back to our roots, uniting our Texas and Missouri locations under the name Ace ImageWear.
– Eddie Heilman, CEO