1979 Crash Hurried Magic Mart's End

by Jack Whitsett  on Monday, Mar. 31, 2014 12:00 am  

“Beth Vaughn, secretary to Magic Mart President Dave Grundfest Jr., said the executives were to have visited several ... stores Friday morning,” Brummett wrote in the Gazette, “then fly back to Little Rock for the annual office Christmas party Friday afternoon.

“‘That of course was canceled,’ she said. ‘This has been a nightmare for us.’

“She said Grundfest was too upset about the tragedy to make statements to the press. ‘He is just at a point that he wouldn’t know what to say,’ she said. ‘This is just a horrible tragedy. These were longtime friends and very vital people to the company.’”

“I’ll never forget that day,” Wilkins said. “Psychologically and emotionally we never recovered. I knew everybody on that plane intimately — all my life, some of them. That was a family business.”

The company’s fortunes quickly sank. Undercapitalized and ravaged by a struggling economy, the company began rapidly selling off the Sterling stores to better support its greatest source of profit, Magic Mart.

In need of a “strategic partner,” the company originally hoped to remain the surviving partner in the Duckwall-Alco merger. But the Little Rock company was the financially weaker partner in the deal.

On Feb. 25, 1983, the companies agreed that Duckwall-Alco would acquire all of Sterling’s outstanding stock in exchange for “not more than 335,000 shares of Duckwall-Alco common stock.”

“Dave [Jr.] called everyone into the office and told them what was going on,” Vaughn said. “It was a very tearful announcement.”

“We were told that the stockholders were the ones wanting to sell the business, not Grundfest,” Irene Forbes said. “When he gathered the employees together to tell us ... he cried.”

The Kansas company inherited Magic Mart stores at the Colony South Shopping Center, 6428 Asher Ave.; 1701 Main St. in Little Rock; in North Little Rock at Pike Plaza Shopping Center; and at North Park Mall. The stores ran for two years as Alco units but shut down in July 1985.

Duckwall-Alco still operates the downtown Little Rock store, along with former Magic Marts in Hardy, Russellville, Conway, Hot Springs, Hot Springs Village and DeWitt.

Dave Grundfest Jr. died in the 1987 crash of a private plane in Aspen, Colo.



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