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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Family Business

Posted February 27, 2008 9:29 a.m. EST

What are your favorite and interesting family business stories? Did you work for a family owned company? What was your starting salary? What were your responsibilities?

My parents ran The Book Store in Morganton. The name was inadequate. Yes, we did sell books but a whole lot more. We should have called it The Wedding Store. We sold more wedding gifts and office supplies than anyone in town. We also carried greeting cards. Plus, we framed pictures, engraved Bibles and prayer books. We sold art supplies, school supplies, fine pens and and those cool View Masters.

The Book Store’s most famous employee was a dog. Our family lab mix Sputnik would walk to work every day and lie down under the card table next to the Parker Pen display and wag his tail every time a customer would come through the door. Sputnik was generously compensated with biscuits and bones. I preferred cold hard cash. At age 10 my starting salary was 45 cents an hour for sweeping the floors, going to the post office and taking out the trash. My salary mushroomed to 2.00 an hour after I mastered the skills of picture framing.

My father was a terrific salesman. He conducted dramatic demonstrations on the virtually unbreakable qualities of a new line of china. Once he dropped an entire box of expensive china on the floor. Not a chip. Not a crack. Yes, he got the sale.

My mother was beloved in the community for her warmth and easy going attitude at the Book Store. She was great about greeting customers and sharing the latest news in town. The Book Store was THE place to go for information. Her only gripe was customers putting greeting cards back in the wrong slot.

I loved snowy mornings in Morganton when schools cancelled classes. I would walk one mile from home to the store with my father and help him sweep the snow off the awning. He would reward me with a Mr. Goodbar.

What about you? Please share your family business stories.