Henry David Lee established the H.D. Lee Mercantile Company a wholesale grocery distributor in Salina, Kansas in 1889. His timing was perfect— meeting a major need in a region of the country where the population was growing exponentially.
In 1895, Lee recognized the need to handle larger shipments of perishable goods and established Kansas Ice & Cold Storage Company. The mercantile business also paved the way for the H.D. Lee Flour Mills, which made profitable use of the large amounts of grain received in trade