Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sears ends era in South Pinellas County

The Sears retail store and Auto center at the Tyrone May is in the final stages of demolition.

St. Petersburg, Fl
Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author: In Search of Robin

As this store comes down Sears is left with only an Outlet/service center at 4600 Park Street North and a Clearance center in Pinellas Park at 5251 110th Ave.

The Tyrone Store was built in 1968 prior to the construction of the Tyrone Mall. Sears also had a large retail store on 9th Street in downtown St. Petersburg for decades.

I worked for Sears at the Tyrone location in sales and management. At the high point the Tyrone Store employed about 700 full and part-time people. I managed several retail divisions in the store and the Service Department at the Auto Center for a couple of years.

During those years, Sears was a great place to work. Outstanding benefits and a profit-sharing  program that pretty much paid for the house I live in today.

I studied for my MBA, and my daughter got her Bachelor's and MBA while I was working for the company.

Sears had great products: Kenmore Appliances, Craftsman Tools, Die hard Batteries, Road Handler Tires and Roebuck jeans you could not wear out. Warranties and service were the best in the retail business.

Sears had an outstanding employee-training program, and employees were encouraged to be entrepreneurs as they ran their divisions.

Hardly a day passed in my career after I left Sears that I did not use something I learned in those training sessions.

What Happened to Sears?

There are many theories. Some blame the sale of Sears to Sears Holdings, others say the company was stuck in an old retail model; some think top management just lost interest in the retail business and thought it would be easier to make money selling Allstate Insurance and investments than moving all of those goods around and trying to sell them.

All I know is the company was good to my family and me. I still get a smile when my retirement check from Sears shows up each month. It's more about the memories than the money.

Of my most fond memories is the guy who was head of custodial services at the Tyrone Store for a long time. He had been with Sears at the 9th street store and retired with somewhere over 40 years of service. Rumor was his profit-sharing  payout was close to a million dollars. I never found out for sure, but he always had a smile on his face when came in the store after he retired.

There are very few companies like that today. Companies where your memories are good, and you still remember customers, old friends and associates.

In the last few years, it seemed every time I walked through the Tyrone Store the memories came flooding back a little stronger.

I'll miss the old store. Those high concrete and marble walls, the soaring ceilings and most of all I miss the customers who used to rely on us for the products and services they could trust.
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Disclosures: Contributor to Rick Baker for Mayor Campaign

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