1979 Crash Hurried Magic Mart's End

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

“Men’s #2 Grey Sox, Shoofly, on your counter at 10 cents, Today’s Market Price, 90 cents a dozen ...

“Women’s Broadcloth Slips that you have sold thousands of dozens of at 25 cents each, today’s price $2.40 a dozen ...

“Oh, I could tell you a lot more but I don’t want to disturb your equilibrium.”

Grundfest valued communication so much that he viewed an employee’s weekly paycheck as an opportunity for getting a message out. Each check was accompanied by a slip of paper featuring Grundfest’s picture and a timely observation from the company president — sort of a payday fortune cookie.

If every employee didn’t share Grundfest’s constant enthusiasm, the Sterling co-founder appeared not to notice. This Sept. 15, 1962, message was typical:

“This is the second week in September ... the leaves are beginning to turn. Before too long now, there will be a frost and you will be surprised to know how many people are going to start buying ladies’ sweaters and skirts, car coats, electric blankets, and so many things we have to offer.

“Give them a little boost, will you? Put a little bit of yourself into your selling job ... it will help us out and make you feel better.”

Since Then ...

2014: This article introduced a regular feature in Arkansas Business, “Fifth Monday,” which continues 13 years later. On months in which we produce five issues, the fifth issue contains a feature on some historic business subject — blue laws, floods, the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant, Yarnell Ice Cream Co.

While Magic Mart was absorbed by Duckwall-Alco in 1983, its in-state competitor, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., continued to expand until it topped the Fortune 500 list of the largest publicly traded companies for the first time in 2002.

Duckwall-Alco’s presence in Arkansas has continued to dwindle. The flagship Sterling store in downtown Little Rock was closed in 2005. And of the six Alcos stores that were still operating in 2001, only two remain: in DeWitt and Hot Springs.

The Grundfest name is still active in the Arkansas business community: Dave Grundfest III is CEO of The Dave Grundfest Co. of Little Rock, a commercial contractor with revenue of more than $23 million in 2012.

And Irene Forbes is still an art director at Arkansas Business Publishing Group.



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