An Extraordinary Journey: From Five & Dime to Retail Realm
Learning from a multigenerational retailer—“You can’t sell it if it’s in the backroom”!
Sue Perry grew up in retail, literally. Her father owned a successful Ben Franklin Five & Dime which was the life blood of Campbellsport, WI in the mid-1960s. As she grew, Sue and her brother Chris Schanen, learned many important lessons from their father, Jerry Schanen, which helps guide them today in their successful Wisconsin retail empire.
Lesson One – You can’t sell it if it’s in the backroom
“It wasn’t until I became a small business owner that I fully appreciated the meaning- not so much of these words- but behind these words,” explained Sue. She went on to explain that a small business “requires constant attention – it is your “baby” that never grows up – it needs to be fed, nurtured, and protected”. The big lesson Sue took away from her father’s first mantra is this— “being a small business owner is not a job, it is a life style.”
Lesson Two – Never be out of the basics
From shovels in winter to sunscreen in summer, customers will always need the things they need. This applies from a Five & Dime to a gift shop (customers will always need to buy birthday and Christmas presents, right!). And so Sue learned the value of her father’s second famous mantra. And as she grew the family business with her brother, she internalized its value.
Lesson Three – Know when to diversify
Over the years the Ben Franklin store changed locations, grew bigger and eventually merged with a True Value and even took on a Radio Shack. Today, there are several store locations near Mayville, WI and now it is time for the next big chapter in the family’s retail history.
Sue explained that they decided to drop “Ben Franklin” from the store name and rebrand as True Value Home & Hardware. “For Chris and I, the change was bittersweet…We understood though, that our stores were not changing, just the name.”Sue and her family also took the opportunity to really diversify by naming their gift and floral shops which were “quickly changing from niche markets to independent shops within the stores”. They named these stores in honor of their mother—Ruby’s Gift and Custom Frame Shop for the Mayville location and Ruby’s Floral and Gifts for the Campbellsport location.Looking back over the last 50 years Sue said that “working with a dedicated and caring staff is a blessing more precious than longevity.” She went on to ad that their “family owned business success story is possible only because of our employees, past and present and for that we are most grateful.”
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