Dorothy “Tommie” Walker could never have imagined what she was starting when she began going door-to-door conducting surveys in 1939. Her first project was for her husband, a banker who was curious to know if anyone was listening to the ads his company had placed on the radio. This first project led to others, and Tommie’s part-time endeavor became a full-time business, Walker Research, in 1952 after the unexpected death of her husband. Her reputation grew, and she built an impressive client list that included A&P grocery stores and L.S. Ayres & Company department stores.

A small building with a sign that reads "Walker Research Service."
Walker’s first solely-owned headquarters, located at 1930 East 46th Street, 1957 Credit: Walker View Source

Walker Research became a recognized name in the emerging market research industry with new innovations, including the first independent research consumer test center in the country, where consumers could see, touch, and evaluate the newest home appliances that were coming onto the market.

As the business matured, Tommie groomed her son Frank to lead the company for the next generation. Under Frank Walker’s leadership, business operations grew and expanded. Global leaders such as Proctor and Gamble and AT&T became significant clients, and the company opened offices in several other cities, mainly as centers for conducting telephone surveys and processing feedback from consumers.

A group portrait of a woman and two men.
Founder Dorothy “Tommie” Walker is flanked by her son Frank and grandson Steve, n.d. Credit: Walker View Source

In the 1980s, consumers and businesses began to demand a higher level of quality. Responding to this growing trend, Walker Research became a trailblazer in the field of customer satisfaction research. The company served as a catalyst for this growing niche in the research industry and quickly became the recognized leader.

In the 1990s as the company began developing and marketing its own platforms for collecting, analyzing, and distributing customer information. Frank’s son, Steve, recognized this trend as a big opportunity.

Steve Walker took the reins as the company’s leader in the mid-1990s. Rebranded as Walker Information, the company not only boasted exceptional research methodologies but also became a pioneer in developing online surveys and reporting tools. As the internet became mainstream for consumers and businesses, the company attracted top technology firms such as Cisco Systems, EMC, and Intel – all of which depended on Walker Information’s services and advice to increase customer retention and growth.

The company’s technological advances gave it a clear advantage, but it was obvious that competition would quickly emerge. Recognizing the changing landscape, the company, known simply as Walker in 2020, became proficient at partnering with market-leading technology companies. Not only did this prompt another wave of growth for the company, but it also continued a long tradition of delivering a unique combination of the top research methods, leading technologies, and expert advice to clients.

Revised June 2021

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