While not every detail is known about Samuel David Bell or his company’s history, here is a brief background on how S.D. Bell & Co., came to be.
Bell was born in 1868 into a working class farming family of nine
children. As a teenager, he moved to Belfast and worked as a shop
assistant at a general store, Dunwoody & Blakely. There he met and
married Jeannie McCausland, whose father owned a linen mill. When the
store was facing bankruptcy, Bell offered to buy the company from
Dunwoody & Blakely – no doubt with financial support from his
father-in-law – allowing the owners to retire comfortably and giving
Bell his own business.
While the company is now a Tea and Coffee Emporium, back in 1890 the
Belfast economy could not support such a singular venture and thus he
operated a general merchant. At the time, Samuel’s firm was officially
recorded as “S.D. Bell and Co, Tea Merchants and Family Grocers.” In
addition to his operations on Ann Street in downtown Belfast, Bell also
built three houses in the suburban neighborhood of Knock, where the
company still resides.
Beyond his business, Samuel Bell was a religious man known for his
philanthropic work, particularly with Belfast’s poor, and he had a great
love of horses. He would ultimately pass S.D. Bell & Co. down to his son and the family-owned business is now in its fourth generation.