Sitting just south of downtown South Bend, the Bowman Creek area has been a business magnet since the 1860s. The creek supplying water and proximity to the river and rail lines made it an attractive location for local entrepreneurs including a power company, a toy factory, furniture manufacturing, and bait production.
South Bend Gas and Light 1868-Today
The oldest company located at Bowman Creek is the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), which has provided natural gas and electric service to northern Indiana for over 150 years. It was originally established by the Studebaker Brothers as the South Bend Gas Light Company in 1868. It was reorganized as NIPSCO in 1912 and still operates today.
South Bend Toy Company 1888-1985
The South Bend Toy Company began operating under that name in 1888. Founded by Frederick Badet and John Teel in 1874, the company found early success manufacturing croquet sets, an activity which was gaining popularity at the time. Other hits were child-sized copies of the famous Studebaker wagons. The company took on military contracts to produce tent poles and packaging during WWII, but baby carriages were considered “essential” and their production continued during the war. In 1968, the company was acquired by Milton Bradley who moved production further from downtown in 1973. Unable to compete with inexpensive toys imported from China, it ultimately closed in 1985.
Shidler Brothers Furniture 1896-1963
Founded in 1896 by Adam and Willard Shidler, the Shidler Brothers Furniture Company began by manufacturing furniture, but in 1924 a portion of the space was devoted to retail. In 1937 manufacturing was discontinued to focus on retail. A massive four-floor 600,000 square foot establishment was opened one mile north in downtown South Bend. Shidler Brothers Furniture went out of business in 1963. Today, the former warehouse at Bowman Creek houses the LangLab facility.
South Bend Bait 1901-1965
One of the latest additions to Bowman Creek was South Bend Bait, founded in 1901 as the Worden Bait Company. Founder Frank G. Worden’s innovative designs incorporated spinners at the front and rear of his wooden lures. In 1908, the company changed hands and was renamed the South Bend Bait Company, eventually moving to Bowman Creek. In the late 1920s the factory employed 400 people. In 1955, the name changed again to South Bend Tackle to dispel the connection with live bait. 10 years later, production ceased in South Bend, however, even today a variety of fishing tackle products are sold under the same name by a Chicago company.
Bowman Creek Today
After years of decline and neglect, the area is experiencing a revival anchored by a multi-use office and entertainment space called LangLab, sparking a new generation of entrepreneurship at Bowman Creek.