Before Succeeding, J.C. Penney Failed as Butcher in Longmont
Fate is funny like that. One door closes, another opens. What would have happened if ol' James Cash Penney had been a great butcher?Put this in the 'I did not know that category' for me: Before building a dry goods empire, before the Christmas catalogs, before the trips to the mall to try on jeans, J.C. Penney got his business start in Longmont. As a butcher!
Visit Longmont tweeted out the story the other day and it intrigued me, so I thought it might intrigue our listeners.
Turns out, after moving to Longmont, for the drier air, from Missouri James bought into a butcher shop. That was in 1897. A year later, he bought his partner out and put his name on it: The J.C. Penney Meat Market. Right on Main. It had success written all over it, you'd think.
The way the story goes is that he had an 'in' to be the sole meat provider for the big fancy hotel in town. Things turned sour, though, when James refused to give the cook a 'kickback' - a bottle of bourbon, every week. So, after a year, J.C. Penney Meat Market threw in the butcher's knife and folded.
Needing a job, J.C. went to work down the street at a dry goods store. After working hard there for a year, the owners offered him a stake in a store they were opening in Wyoming. James married his Longmont love and headed up to Evanston.
Just a few short years later, in 1902, he was able to buy that store, along with two others in Wyoming for $30,0000. Where did he get that kind of money? The story from Visit Longmont does not say. Those three stores became the first J.C Penney stores we know today.
Just 15 years after those stores opened, he had 169 of them! What? 169? That seems crazy! The company is still doing VERY well- even though they don't send out that big Christmas catalog anymore- they did over $12B in sales in 2016 alone!
All because J.C. Penney couldn't make it as a butcher in Longmont!
Get more on his start in Longmont from Visit Longmont HERE!