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A Story Of Three Bills

Bills F., H. and A. are successive generations of an aviation-loving family best known as the owners of – what else? – Bill’s TV.

Bill F. and Bill H. pose with the first company truck for Bill’s TV: a red Volkswagen bus they purchased in 1959.

Bill F. and Bill H. pose with the first company truck for Bill’s TV: a red Volkswagen bus they purchased in 1959.

At 6366 20th Street in Vero Beach, there is a century-old safe that has endured two fires, a two-story fall and a 1,300-mile move. The safe sits in the back room of Bill’s TV, and it tells a fraction of the story of the Kaser family, who have been residents of Indian River County for over half a century.

The Kasers’ American journey began in the early 1900s when H.E. Kaser emigrated from Germany to Buffalo, N.Y. There in 1913, he established a leather business specializing in the hand-crafting of fine leather goods such as purses, wallets and key cases. Two sons were born to the Kasers, and both joined their father in the leather shop. Herb, his father’s namesake, served in World War II and took part in the invasion of Normandy. After the war, he married a Canadian woman and relocated to her homeland. Second son William Fred Kaser (Bill F.) remained in the leather business with his dad. So well-crafted were their products that the Kaser name became synonymous with fine leather goods and is included in the 2009 book Artistic Leather of the Arts and Crafts Era by Daniel Lees.

In 1954, Bill F., having taken over the family business, decided that there had to be an alternative to the harsh winters of upstate New York, and packed his bags (no doubt leather ones) for Florida. He and his wife Noreen selected Vero Beach as their new home, and, along with their two sons, William Herb (Bill H.) and James, made the 1,300-mile journey from Buffalo. Bill set up shop in rented space at the airport, in the administration building of the former Naval Air Station, but misfortune struck in June, 1955, when a fire broke out. Firefighters responded, but not in time to save the part of the building occupied by Kaser Leather. Undaunted, Bill was determined to rebuild. One of the items salvaged from the wreckage was the old safe that had served the company for decades. The safe had seen worse: in 1946 it had fallen two stories during a fire at the Kasers’ Buffalo location.

Read the entire article in the May 2011 issue