Sunday, May 21, 2006


This use to be The First National Bank building in Marietta. It is where farmers would come in do their business on Saturdays where sometimes a handshake is all the collateral the bank needed. Then a wealthy man, from Jacksonville, Florida, who owned controlling interest in a banking take-over company came in, bought out the controlling interest, brought his own executives in and more or less ran away the old bankers there, like my sister who had been there 30 years.

What they didn't realize, Marietta still had a small town mentality. The "old money" shifted their money from the First National to their friends who had just left the bank and started their own bank.

The First National Bank didn't last long, it has been sold and resold, and sort of dissolved into many little small banks. Now, the main occupant of the big marble First National Bank building is Subway Sandwiches. And upstairs is the building owner's son law office.

I will call the Building owner Herb. Between Herb and his son Phil, they own over half the buildings on the Square in downtown Marietta. They also own leased land on the mail streets flowing into downtown. They are worth millions.

Herb is now about 80 + years old. He is tall and lean. I have seen him action many times. He is a merchant at heart. He owns a men's clothing store downtown. His daughter owns a women's clothing store also downtown. Wait. The daughter did own a women's clothing store, now she owns a uniform shop. I watched him line up his inventory folded nice on shelves, when doing that sort of thing he looks very much at home with himself.

Herb does not have prices on anything. When someone asks him how much an item is, or a coat is he doesn't hardly bother looking at the product. Instead, he looks at the customer, sizes him up to about what he thinks he is willing to pay and tell him that is the price. It must work for him.

Once we took our two sons to the Chattanooga Train Museum. There we bought them each a gray with black stripes railroad conductor's hat. The kind you have seen Donald Duck and Walt Disney wear. After we got home, I decided I wanted on too. I called Herb's store and asked him did he have the railroad hats, gray with black stripes. He said he did and I said how much. He said $3.99 each. That sounded reasonable, so after work a couple days later I went by and I asked his wife, Mrs. Herb about the hats and she led me to them. I picked out one and told her I would take it.

Mrs. Herb, turned around and said to Mr. Herb, "Mr. _________, how much are these hats?" Mr. Herb, without looking at the cap, but looking at me said, "$2.99."

Hah! I got him for a dollar! He told me $3.99 over the phone. But after looking at me, he said $2.99... I am not sure that is a complement.

Another time for Christmas I received an overcoat that was too big for me. I was told by the giver it came from Herb's store so I returned it, along with the sales slip. Herb said he would gladly give me in merchandise what the coat was worth.

It was interesting to watch him. He was pulling down shirts, ties, belts, pants, gloves, and I don't know what all, trying to sell me on the items in a honest way. He was completely focused on making an even swap. He wanted to make sure I was happy and had me try on trousers and all. After all his work and combinations of taking some things back he was short twenty-five cents.

Now, there is a reason self-made millionairs are millionaires. Herb is a good example. He wasn't about to let a quarter leave that cash register. He opened up his cash register and lifted the change drawer, reached underneath and handed me a McDonald's coupon for 25 cents off of my next McDonald's visit. He also told me I had to use it before the expiration date or they might not accept it.

How's that for honesty?

I know Herb has operated his men's clothing store out of at least three locations. Now I don't think he has a store. Are the clothing merchandise in storage someplace on standy waiting for another store to close?

One evening we downtown at a concert and stopped by an ice cream shop for a treat. The store was in one of Herb's buildings. Herb's wife came in, and she was no the humble sales clerk I was used to seeing her as... she was an aggressive person on a mission. She walked up to the counter and the manger gave her a big fat number ten envelope.

Does she collect the rent the same way the gansters collect protection money? No receipts, no paper work... hmmm.

Not long ago I went on a walk in the downtown area for my exercise after I went to the doctor. Herb and his little granchild, or great grandchild was down by the tracks looking at the building.

In a day or so, his son Phil announced he is building a ten story apartment building with stores on the first two levels... and guess where. Exactly where I saw Herb stand with his grandson. It is their property, and property rights are rights, but it irks me that they are choosing the place for the building in an area that will block off the view of Kennesaw Mountain from the park in the middle of town and also they will have to disturb or block some historical grain and cotton storage bins on the edge of the railroad tracks that have been there before the Civil War.

A week or so later Anna was in Wal-Mart and she was to return something and was in line. I am nto good at returning stuff so Anna does that kind of stuff most of the time. I noticed the person ahead of her line was Herb and his grandson.

I wonder, with Herb's retail marketing experience and expertise, what he thought of the big huge super store. What he would have done differently, in displaying the pants or the shirts in season?

I walked over to Anna and whispered in her ear that Herb was in front of her. As I walked off I glanced back and saw him smiling. He probably heard me and appreciated the notoriety.

I was also curious to see what he was carrying back and the reason. I'm sure he has heard all the excuses. I wonder if he was expecting to get partly of his refund back in McDonald coupons?

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Blogger kenju said...

Good story, Eddie.
You know who Alexander Julian is, right? His Dad owned a men's store in Chapel Hill, which we went into years ago. Mr. kenju was looking at sweaters, and had picked one out that was on sale. Mr. Julian said he ought to buy slacks to go with them, since they were all color-coordinated, and he got a pair to try on. They were gorgeous fabric. Mr. kenju said how much are these slacks? and Mr. Julian answered with a swagger...."Nothing YOU can't handle". Of course, mr. kenju's ego won out and he bought both the sweater and the pants!

I guess Mr. Julian was a consummate salesman!

11:37 AM  
Blogger ET said...

Right! Retail owners/salemen succeed when the know which buttons to push when.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like every town in the South has one of these rural characters that owns half the town. we have had them every where. In fact, we live on one's property now.

2:04 PM  
Blogger ET said...

I think just about every samll southern town has a Boss Hawg.
This guy is more of a gentleman Hawg.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

I'm surprised (and glad) that Wal-Mart did not put Herb's stores out of business.

11:54 PM  
Blogger ET said...

I saw the son lawyer at a concert last night in downtown Marietta. He was only taking a shortcut through the part, but did stop and shake a few hands.
He is a tall fellow, taller than I remembered.
Or maybe I am shorter than I think.

5:15 AM  

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