I Want Cedar Rapids


Neppl worked for three years without ever spending more than a few hours a week in his Pittsburgh office. He loved most of the Penney people with whom he worked, but he loved his family more and hated life on the road. He was also very successful. The Neppl family built a house on a cul de sac and came to thrive in Pittsburgh. "The people were wonderful," Walt said. "We made some good friends ."

Again, he finally set his sights on a store ”as he became vested in the company, [2] raising his right hand, taking the oath, and receiving his HCSC pin. But, again, New York needed him to deal with stores . In 1957 he was made DM of a key district with an office also in Pittsburgh. " District 12, which was just fine, I guess, a real opportunity," he said. "Had that about four years. Sixty stores." Visiting most of which, of course, meant hitting the road.

"On the typical visit I'd be there about 7:30 and spend some time with the manager and assistant manager ”the ˜first man we used to say. Then I'd go over the whole store, then review all the records. I'd look at the organization, the staffing, just review the whole operation of the store."

In 1961 Neppl told New York that he was fed up with travel, that seven years was enough. He was determined not to go to New York, however. When they asked him what he wanted, he was prepared. He said, "I want Cedar Rapids, Iowa." It was a big store that he would have loved, and he knew the manager was retiring soon. New York replied, "Oh, we'll have to talk to Cece Wright about that." A little while later, Bill Marshall walked into Walt's Pittsburgh office. Marshall had been made head of stores when Wright shifted over to run merchandise.

Marshall shut the door and shook Neppl's hand, saying, "Walt ”I was coming through and thought I'd better stop."

Neppl laughed and said, "It's funny how people are always happening by. Cece Wright did that in Albuquerque."

Marshall returned the laugh and said, "You really get right to it, don't you?"

Neppl grinned and said, "What can I do for you, Bill?"

Marshall replied in kind. "Come to New York and work for me."

" New York?"

"It's not as bad as you think. You'd get used to it. And Walt?" Marshall nodded seriously. "For a man of your ability, it's the place to be now."

Neppl sighed and said, "Okay, Bill, what's the deal?"

Marshall nodded again, with, "All right, think of all these new strip stores ”you've opened how many yourself?"

"Couple dozen , maybe."

"And where was the manual, the pro forma?"

Neppl pointed to his head and said, "Here." But he said it warily, sensing what was coming next .

"Right. Physically, they're all about the same. But the markets are different, the people are different, the merchandise mix will be different, et cetera, et cetera. You have to keep all that in your head because there is no standardized approach to all this. Every department knows what they're doing, but there's no overall coordination."

"And you want me to do that?"

"Yes. And you know why ” especially ? Know what's going to happen in the next 10 years?"

Neppl spread his hands. "New stores."

"Four kinds of new stores, all bigger and bigger for bigger and bigger markets. In time there'll be indoor shopping centers with J. C. Penney anchoring down one end."

"Oh, boy," Neppl said quietly , feeling it coming.

"And we need an overall plan, get everybody on the same team. Rather than having a meeting with departments and guessing for this one, guessing for that one, I want a book on the whole program. I want every store element for every type store, and stores by market size , projected profit, et cetera. A five-year plan with every department signed off and pulling together. It's the only way we can get this thing going right. And this thing will get going. So, what I'm talking about is important."

"Yeah, I bet," Neppl said without enthusiasm .

"I need someone who can get this done. You'd be on special assignment. You can put together a team, anyone you want. You're the only one I ever considered , Walt."

"Yeah. Thanks." He looked at Marshall with a weak smile. "Yeah, okay."

[2] After a minimum number of years with the company and achieving a certain level of responsibility (those great women on the floor with so much experience never got the pin).




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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