September 12, 2011
Bernard Mears had arrived in America in his mother’s arms.
He was two years old in 1878. The Mears family were all hard workers and made a place for themselves in the land of opportunity.
Bernie was smart and wanted to be his own boss. When Bernie was 25 he took a wife. Bernie had saved some money and decided on a dry goods and grocery store combined.
He and Marie found an empty building to rent and proceeded to fill it with inventory. There was an apartment upstairs. They were not blessed with children, so the two of them worked side by side to become established and build a trade.
Marie had a knack for arranging the merchandise to appeal to customers and Bernie didn’t mind the long hours. He was happy, life was good.
The business thrived until the great depression hit the entire country. No one had money to purchase pretty things or even food. In 1930, Marie had a heart attack and left Bernie alone.
Following Marie’s death, which Bernie felt was brought about from worry about the store, he lost interest in everything. He was keeping odd hours of opening and closing the store. He had few customers and did not make them feel welcome. Bernie wandered about the store, dusting a bit and sweeping the floor. His inventory remained almost the same, as nothing much was sold. After awhile, he stopped sweeping and dusting.
The grocery part still had canned foods but little else. Bernie was loosing weight and not eating much once his fresh meats and cheeses were depleted. A deep depression set in. He had lost Marie, his true love, and now his business seemed lost as well. Why did he want to live?
A few houses down the street lived a family who had also fallen on hard times. They seldom had three square meals a day. Julie, the youngest girl was fourteen. Julie worried about Mr. Mears getting so thin. At meal time, she would take a portion of their meager meal to Bernie. She would stay and talk to him, dusting and cleaning.
After several months Bernie began to improve. He still had no customers to speak of, but from what he had left in the store, he would sack a few cans to take to Julie’s family.
In early spring, Julie saw her father planting a garden. This gave her an idea. She suggested to Bernie to make a garden in the big space beside the store, which they had once thought would become a parking lot, and sell the produce really cheap in the store. It would help the neighbors and also Bernie to have money for new merchandise. They would plant half the garden space now and half in three weeks giving them fresh produce for a long time.
Julie prayed hard as they placed the seeds in the ground. When the seeds sprouted, Julie looked anxiously at the rows and there were no empty spots. They all came up and produced the best crop of vegetables Bernie had ever seen. Julie gave another prayer of thanks.
You might say those two had the idea for the first Dollar Store as they reduced the prices until nothing in the store cost more than a dollar with many items a penny or nickel. They soon became well known in the community for having the best prices and finest produce in town. They also extended credit to their neighbors and accepted various items as trade for merchandise.
The two of them worked hard throughout the 1930s and made a very successful business. Julie earned a salary. As the economy picked up, so did sales at the store.
Bernie was now in his 66th year. Julie was doing most of the work while Bernie clerked a bit and kept books. They had hired a man to plant and tend the garden.
One afternoon when Bernie closed his ledger, he smiled at Julie.
“We are now knee deep in black ink, Julie. Our hard work has paid off. Please give me a dollar bill.”
Julie had no idea why he wanted a dollar, but pulled one from her purse and gave it to him. Bernie smiled.
“Julie, you now own this store. I have given it much thought, and since my parents have passed and my sister married well, there is no one I want to leave it to, or who deserves it more. You saved me and the store years ago. As soon as the paperwork to transfer title to you is complete, I plan on going out and seeing the rest of this great country.”
Julie thanked him and added that she would always keep the name of Mears Family Store, and he could come back when he wanted to.
A few days later, Bernie packed and loaded his car and left among many tears and good luck wishes from the neighbors. Many postcards, letters and phone calls would be forthcoming over the years. Bernie would meet many interesting people in his travels, and view wondrous things.
Julie sighed, wiped her hands on the big white butcher apron she wore and went back to work. She sat down at Bernie’s big desk and thought to herself, who would ever imagine a Jewish man, a part Indian girl and a few seeds would have survived the worst this country could throw at them and come out on top?
We truly reap what we sow.
Author - Clara Wersterfer, Copyright © 2008