Efficiency, Success, and Sadness

In 1932, a time when most businesses were desperately retrenching or simply expiring, the J. C. Penney Company signed a favorable lease for a large space one block from the domed state capitol building in downtown Lansing. The corner building had five full narrow floors, a balcony overlooking the high-ceilinged first floor, and a large basement with alley access. Altogether, this would be a premiere "AAA" store, then one of Penney's largest. Because of the economic climate and the investment, there was considerable debate in the New York Office as to who should become this new store's manager. Jack Maynard got the crucial appointment and ” despite later eccentricities ”proved to be every bit as outstanding as management had hoped.

Not long after Maynard opened the Lansing store, he stopped his first man on the floor for some typically brief news. "Herb, a man from the paper will be here this afternoon, and there's a hectograph of my bio and a photo in the office." The first man ” who had come from Adrian with Maynard and would continue on from Lansing for a long and solid Penney career ”quickly picked up on this seemingly scant information (as Maynard fully expected him to). He nodded as both men then headed in different directions.

The Lansing State Journal reporter who appeared that afternoon was surprised on two counts. The first man, not the subject of the paper's article, was his host. And it was he, not the reporter, who asked most of the questions. Nevertheless, when the brief, pleasant tour and "interview" were completed, the reporter had Maynard's formal photo portrait and bio in addition to a full notebook.

The next day a large three-column feature on Maynard ran in the paper's first section. This was followed by half-serious joking in capitol corridors about the manager's political potential. No one could recall any other major state newspaper ”not in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, or Battle Creek ”ever giving such coverage to a merchant. The article: [4]

J. M. Maynard Manager Here
Since Penney Opened Store


Local Manager in Full Control

As manager of Lansing's J. C. Penney store, J. M. ("Jack") Maynard has total control, operating this unit in a manner that he feels is in the best interest of the customer, the community and the company. The Penney company believes that each of its stores is a distinct type of operation that can best be adjusted locally to meet the particular needs of its community.

Department store experts believe that this fact, coupled with the company's policy of "cutting-in" each manager for a substantial share of the profits made in the individual store, is largely responsible for the success of the Penney organization.

[SEVERAL PARAGRAPHS ON THE COMPANY'S FULFILLED ASPIRATIONS FOR LANSING AND MAYNARD'S BIOGRAPHY FOLLOWED.] Mr. Maynard, who is also a business community and civic leader, feels that his plans for the store have been largely realized. Now, he is confident, the Penney store will reach new heights as a successful shopping center for the thousands of Penney customers in Lansing and the nearby trading areas.

Aside from its uniqueness, the Journal 's piece flagged three telling things at this stage of Maynard's career:

  1. The Penney company success despite the egregiously bad economy

  2. Maynard's own success

  3. Maynard's growing influence in the community (making further good work more efficient)

Another interesting fact known only to the first man and the reporter was that Maynard succeeded in getting great ink while investing virtually none of his own time.

And so, as a self-made man rising (in bad times) to the pinnacle of his career, Jack Maynard would presently write a personal check and enclose it in the saddest posting of his life.

[4] Reprinted by permission. Lansing State Journal , 17 March 1932.

Celebration of Fools. An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
Celebration of Fools: An Inside Look at the Rise and Fall of JCPenney
ISBN: 0814471595
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2003
Pages: 177
Authors: Bill Hare

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