Have you ever been told by your boss that you’re not allowed to wait on customers because, “You don’t have enough sense!”?

Many careers begin slowly. “Why should I pay you to learn the business?” was the mantra at one man’s first job. Being a young 21 year-old and the son of a farmer, the salesman worked for the first three months for free.

After six years of failing to satisfy his simpleton boss in Watertown, New York, he desperately wanted to be his “own man.” He had closely watched the merchandising techniques of his boss. He felt he had a breakthrough model idea. After bumming $300, on February 22, 1879 this budding retailer opened his first store in Utica.

Two weeks later it closed. Failure!

This wanna-be businessman would have none of it. In April 1879 he attempted to open a second store. This time he picked Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He tweaked his merchandising strategy and decided to bring on his brother to help. The brothers decided to double their price point assortment. They decided to merchandise at five cents as well as ten cents.

The Woolworth brothers incorporated and united the 586 stores they had opened under this format, then they built the world’s tallest building. It stood an amazing 792 feet and they paid for all $13,500,000 of it in cash.

Would you believe they hired the original employer and made him a partner?

117 years later, on August 4, 1997, the company announced it would close its 400 remaining locations. This marked the end of an American icon and wiped out $1,000,000,000 (yeah, billion) in variety store sales in one day.

Interestingly, this company continues to operate today under a new corporate name and a new stable of brands. You know them as Foot Locker and Champs Sports.

Sometimes a trip down memory lane brings important historical failures to light, and sometimes it’s just nostalgic.

It is our hope your independent family business still stands for something real. Today’s customer demands it.

We are here to help. Would you like to try?