W.W. Fairbairn & Sons, History

W.W. Fairbairn & Sons in Alanson celebrated their 125th anniversary in 2020. The business was founded by Walter Wayne Fairbairn in 1895, a time when things were just a bit different in northern Michigan.

It was the height of the lumbering era and Walter had a manually operated grinding stone and sharpened axes and saw blades for the lumbering camps. He also had a heavy-duty sewing machine he used to repair the lumberjacks’ boots. More than a century later, the grinding stone and sewing machine remain displayed in the office as a reminder of the business’ roots.

From axes, saws and boots the business expanded into hardware and plumbing. Walter was the first master plumber north of Grand Rapids. In those days, a person could travel either by roads or by rivers and lakes. The main difference was that more often than not the lakes were smooth enough for travel. Walter would often load his plumbing tools and supplies into a boat and travel by water to either install or maintain the plumbing systems in cottages and homes that were being built around the Inland Waterway.

W.W. Fairbairn & Sons started out and remains a family-owned and operated business, now in its fifth generation. Walter Wayne, the original W.W. Fairbairn was the first generation. Clifford and Morley Fairbairn were the second generation. Tom and Walter Fairbairn were the third generation. Tom Fairbairn Jr. is the fourth generation and Samantha Fairbairn is the fifth generation.

Over 125 years a lot of things changed, but some things remain the same. W.W. Fairbairn & Sons has always been in downtown Alanson in the big building on the corner and the foundation of the business has always been service and taking care of customers.

The hardware store is a traditional hardware store. If you’re working on a project, be it home repair, cooking, gardening, or feeding the birds. If you need tools, parts, supplies, or you’re doing a DIY, someone at Fairbairns is always there to help.

The plumbing and heating branch of the business expanded into the building immediately north of the hardware store in 2017. Service is also the foundation of that part of the operation.

Being a fifth generation family-owned business in its 126th year is a blessing, tribute to hard work, and attribute to adaptability that the present day Fairbairns appreciate and look forward to celebrating. Not many businesses can say that they are fifth generation, family-owned, and still in the same location.

We hope to grow and celebrate for years to come while keeping true and faithful to our roots that began in 1895.