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Tom L. Evans Oral History Interview, November 28, 1962

Oral History Interview with
Tom L. Evans

Kansas City businessman; friend of Harry S. Truman since the early twenties; formerly Secretary of the Harry S. Truman Library, Inc.; and Treasurer of the Harry S. Truman Library Institute for National and International Affairs.

Kansas City, Missouri
November 28, 1962
J. R. Fuchs

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Evans Oral History Transcripts]


Notice
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened August, 1966
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Evans Oral History Transcripts]



Oral History Interview with
Tom L. Evans

Kansas City, Missouri
November 28, 1962
J. R. Fuchs

[84]

FUCHS: The last time we were together, Tom, you were telling about the beginning of your association with Mr. Payne in a drugstore in Kansas City, Missouri. I guess we should start there, now.

EVANS: That's fine. Mr. Payne, during the time that I worked for Fritche-Henderson Candy Company as a salesman, was a salesman for the old Evans-Smith Drug Company. Incidentally, that Evans was no relation of mine; but it was an old, old Kansas City firm and a wholesale drug house--jobbing house--selling to retail drugstores. Mr. Payne and I, of course, were good friends because we were both born in Larned, Kansas, and we traveled the same territory together and were well-acquainted; and had the opportunity of observing retail druggists in their operations and how poor most of them operated their stores. We had often talked about going into the retail drug business. The War came along and, of course, stopped that and then my illness. Mr.

 

[85]

Payne had been in the service and he had gotten out and taken a job down in Texas with a wholesale manufacturer of drugs selling a product called "Orgatone." He got in touch with me, saying that he was getting tired of traveling and he thought that we ought to consider again buying a drugstore. In December of 1919 he quit his job down in Texas and came up here, and I showed him a number of drugstores that I thought were good locations. One in particular was at the corner of what is now Linwood and Main or 3300 Main. In those days, it was called Hunter Avenue and Main. Linwood then, west of Main Street, was called Hunter Avenue--it's now Linwood. The store was run by a man by the name of Harry Wilkerson. I had called on him selling candy; Mr. Payne had called on him selling drugs--he knew him. He had rather a nasty disposition--ran an awful dirty drugstore. It was a prominent corner, a great transfer point; the old Strang Line interurban railroad, running from Kansas City to Olathe, turned there and it was quite a transfer

 

[86]

corner. So, we thought that would be a good location. We talked to Wilkerson about buying it and found that we could; the only thing that we needed was money; we didn't have any money. We started out to raise some money and I've already told most of that story. Mr. Payne did have $2500 and, incidentally, was not married. I was married and had a daughter; it was taking all of my money to live on. I went to my old boss, the McPike Drug Company, that I first went to work for, and sold them the idea that I wanted to go into the retail drug business--wanted to buy a drugstore. They loaned me $2500 and that was, incidentally, the first money I ever borrowed. Then Mr. Payne and I made a tour of all the banks in Kansas City trying to borrow another $5000 because the drugstore that we wanted to buy at Hunter Avenue and Main, the cost of it was $10,000. Clive Payne had gone to the University of Kansas with S. K. Cook whose brother was the president of the Columbia National Bank and he (S. K. Cook) had taken a job in the

 

[87]

bank, and, of course, as I say, he knew Mr. Payne. Well, as I said earlier, we talked him into loaning us $2500 on an open note, of course, we had no collateral. Then we got Mr. Wilkerson, the man we wanted to buy out, to agree to take a mortgage on the fixtures for the balance of $2500, all of which took considerable time. Anyway, on January 15, 1920, we bought the store and closed the deal and took possession. It was agreed between Clive Payne and myself that I would continue on working for Fritche-Henderson Candy Company and he would run the drugstore. He would run it during the day and after I finished my work in the day, I would run it at night, to see how we would get along. The store, at the time we bought it, was probably doing about--oh, less than a hundred dollars a day business, which was not even enough to pay expenses, so we wanted to take it easy. The store as I said before, was dirty, unattractive. There was a lot of old fixtures. I remember a florist's box for flowers was built into the window--fine thing for a drugstore to sell, but anyway, they had it there, and

 

[88]

between the glass of the flower icebox and the glass of the window there was this vase that I guess had been there five, six, seven years and it was just filthy dirty--it was awful. People, of course could see it--dirty. Well, anyway, I got my brother and my father and my brother-in-law and all my relatives to help us and some of Payne's relatives--we tore out that old icebox and started stocking up the store. We had plenty of credit; we didn't have any trouble buying merchandise and we got the store in pretty good shape. We put in a new soda fountain—bought that on time--and business started picking up. After about forty-five days of Mr. Payne running it in the daytime and me running it at night, we determined that there was enough business for both of us, so I notified Fritche and Henderson that I was resigning my job to devote my full time to my first drugstore, which we did. Well, we had a very fine, successful operation there; I think mainly, Jim, because Mr. Payne or I was on duty all the time. One of us was there all the time and both of us

 

[89]

were there most of the time and we had little help to hire. One week I would open and that week Mr. Payne would close. The next week, I would reverse and open and he would close. We each put in about fourteen to sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, and the night that I closed up my wife would act as my cashier and the night that Payne worked, Mrs. Payne would work as his cashier; so we had no help. Incidentally, all the money got in the cash register instead of in some of the help's pocket, which I think made it a pretty successful operation.

It worked out--that store worked fine, and at the end of the twelve months period we were both mighty happy to know that we had paid off the bank, the $2500 that we borrowed from them (The Columbia National Bank), and we had paid the $2500 that I had borrowed from McPike Drug Company. We paid Mr. Wilkerson his $2500 and paid Mr. Payne back his $2500 and in addition we had increased the inventory from about $6000 to $12,000, and we put in about $10,000 worth of new fixtures. Actually, the drugstore made pretty good money, at least,

 

[90]

exceptionally good money for those days. And, as I say, it was mainly because one of us was there all the time and both of us were there most of the time, and we had our wives helping us to watch and see that there were no losses. I've often said that that drugstore probably made more money than any drugstore that I bought in later years, but that was because both of us were there.

They have a great story they tell on me about my first operation at that store. Mr. Truman's heard the story so I guess I better tell it to you and let the young lady, when she transcribes this, hear this story.

After we were in business about a year, and, as I told you, Mrs. Evans helped me at night, I just couldn't get by without help. Whatever amount of business we'd done up to six o'clock in the evening, we would do an equal amount from seven o'clock to twelve, so I needed a cashier. After we were there almost a year, Mrs. Evans was pregnant and

 

[91]

was expecting our second child and she said, "I just can't come down to the store and work any more, I'm too big."

She felt good and I said, "Well, I can't afford to lose a good cashier and I need you. Wait until it gets dark and you can come down and slip in the front door, right in behind the cigar counter, and I'll build up some boxes of cigars on the top of the counter so people can't see you only just above your waist."

And she did and then she got larger and I put up another stack of cigar boxes. So I had her working for me until the 10th day of January, 1921, and Dick, our boy, was born on February 6th, 1921. They've kidded me about how hard I worked my wife and piled cigar boxes up so she couldn't be seen; but, as I say, I needed her very bad and, of course, she deserves a lot of credit along with Mrs. Payne for our original success in that first drugstore.

FUCHS: Now, this was about 1921 when Mr. Truman and

 

[92]

Eddie Jacobson were experiencing difficulties with their haberdashery business, largely as a result of what they called the "Harding depression," I guess. Was that felt in the drug business?

EVANS: Yes, it was what we now call a "depression" in general, and it was felt, not only in the haberdashery business, drug business, grocery business, and by everybody. I know there was a grocery store next to our drugstore there at Hunter Avenue and Main and a man by the name of Jessee owned it and he couldn't survive; his business just got so bad that he had to close up. Well, frankly, Mr. Payne and I might have been in the same boat if it hadn't been for the fact that we had bought a store that was a good location, but the business had just been abused and we just had a natural good business plus the fact as I have said, because we employed very little help and very little overhead and we were able to get by and build our business in that depressed year.

 

[93]

Yes, I knew about, of course, Mr. Truman having the haberdashery and had learned from some of our friends of some of the difficulties that he was having. But, as you can well imagine, I was too busy running a drugstore to pay much attention in those days to the haberdashery at 12th and Baltimore.

FUCHS: You don't recall talking to him about any of his difficulties. You didn't see him much, I gather?

EVANS: No, no. As I say, I didn't have time. I would occasionally see A1 Ridge, whom I think I told you about being a soda dispenser over at 22nd and Prospect and is now a Federal judge and, of course, we're good friends. He spent a lot of time in Eddie Jacobson's and Mr. Truman's haberdashery and I would occasionally see him. It seems to me that his statement in those days to me, when he'd drop in the store at Hunter Avenue and Main to see me, was that their biggest trouble was that they had given credit to so many of their

 

[94]

friends, and their friends had lost their jobs and couldn't pay; that that was the difficulty. At least, that was Al Ridge's idea of what was wrong at the haberdashery. As I said, I didn't see either he or Eddie because I was too busy keeping my first drugstore going and trying to make some money and pay off my debt, which I'm thankful we were able to do.

FUCHS: Do you know anyone who might have clerked for Mr. Truman in the store in those days?

EVANS: No, I don't recall anyone by name who worked for them.

FUCHS: Well now, you lost your cashier as a result of gaining a child?

EVANS: That's right. Well, I had employed a young man on the soda fountain, a boy by the name of Andrew A. Zimmerman who had a fine personality and a lot of pep. In those days, you could send a man part-time to the College of Pharmacy for study and he could take the state board, and if

 

[95]

he was successful in passing it, he became a registered pharmacist. That, of course, is no longer true. Today, you have to have four years college education before you can take the state board. But anyway, we hired him. He did a job. We made him a clerk because I'd lost my cashier and our business was such anyway, that we had to have some help. We put him through the College of Pharmacy and he became a registered pharmacist. We bought a drugstore at 31st and Main--that was our second store. Incidentally, we had to borrow all the money; we'd paid back everything, so Mr. Payne and I borrowed the money to buy that drugstore. As I recall it, we paid $15,000 for that store. We put Zimmerman in to run it with the understanding that when the profits from that particular store paid us back our $15,000, he would own one half of the store and Mr. Payne and I would own the other half. Well, he did about the same as we did; he worked hard. He had gotten married; he had his wife helping him in the drugstore and he did very well. And at the end of twelve months

 

[96]

period he'd paid back the $15,000 and he owned a half interest in that store at the northeast corner of 31st and Main.

FUCHS: Is he the former taxi driver I read about?

EVANS: That's the one. That's the boy that Mr. Payne and I employed and put through pharmacy school, and he did that in about sixteen months by going to school five mornings a week one week and five afternoons the next week and studying in the drugstore. He passed the state board and became a registered pharmacist. It was about fourteen or fifteen months after he went to work for us that he had passed the state board, and we bought his store and a year later he'd paid us back the $15,000 and was the owner of it.

FUCHS: That store was just a short distance from your first store, wasn't it?

EVANS: That's right. We were really at 33rd and Main and this was at 31st--just two blocks, but it was entirely a different neighborhood. At 31st and

 

[97]

Main in those days almost ninety percent of their business was streetcar transfer business. We had a good neighborhood business at 33rd and Main, but 31st and Main was an enormous, big transfer point--the second best in town, and it was transient business; oh, there was some neighborhood. There were two large hospitals there. One, in those days, was called the Swedish Hospital; it's now the Trinity Lutheran at 30th and Wyandotte. Of course, it's still there, but completely modernized; and St. Mary's Hospital--Catholic Hospital--at 28th Street and Main, which is still there, but completely revamped, and there was a lot of business for that store from there.

Well, Zimmerman was a good operator, a wonderful personality, and a hard worker, and, as I say, at the end of twelve months he had that store paid for. In the meantime, Mr. Payne and I had looked at another store at 39th and Main, which was six blocks south of our first store. It was a good business center. In later years, by the way,

 

[98]

Eddie Jacobson (after World War II) opened a haberdashery across the street on the northwest corner of 39th and Main. Mr. Payne and I bought this store at 39th and Main, which was at the northeast corner, right across the street from where Eddie later opened his store. There was a couple of men who owned the store--a couple of partners--and they had not been getting along well. It was a heavily populated little suburban business section--all kinds of business for about two blocks square, as you can remember. Even now 39th and Main is a separate and distinct business district. Well, that was an exceptionally good store. Mr. Payne then left me at 33rd and Main or Hunter Avenue and Main, and he went down and ran that store. As I remember, we paid $20,000 for that store, and we had all of the profits of that store and all of the profits of our first store, and half of the profits of the store at 31st and Main to pay it off, and in about eight months, we got that paid for. I must say,

 

[99]

however, that neither one of them made near the money that the first store did, because we had split up, which, while we made money, we didn't make as big money as we did in the first store, as I'm sure you can understand why: because we had to hire help and you didn't have people working eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. Although I must say that things are considerably changed today as compared to then. We used to hire a registered pharmacist in those days for a hundred dollars a month and he worked eighty-four hours a week. People sometimes wonder where labor unions got started; well, I've often said that between Kresge and Woolworth and the druggists of America, we made the labor unions, because we worked the help to death--long hours and no pay. Today, a registered pharmacist works forty hours a week and, I guess, makes at least a hundred and fifty dollars a week as compared to a hundred dollars a month and eighty-four hours a week.

Well, we were then the proud owners and

 

[100]

operators of--Mr. Payne and I--of two and a half drugstores. In the meantime, we had a couple of men who were working for us, a man by the name of Bill Werthe and another man. Werthe was working for Mr. Payne at 39th and Main, and I had a boy working for me at Hunter Avenue and Main by the name of John Williams. So we bought a drugstore at the southwest corner of 25th and Troost. It was a small drugstore, in those days operated by a man by the name of Roy Berkley. Roy was a good friend of mine because I had called on him as a salesman--so had Mr. Payne--we knew him. He didn't like the drug business; he'd gotten mad at it because of the long hours and hard work. I wanted to get John Williams into a store; I went to see Roy and bought his drugstore for a very reasonable price. I think we paid $10,000 for it--it wasn't too big a drugstore. We put John in that store on the same basis that we did with Zimmerman except, instead of giving him a half interest we gave him a third interest, as we had a slight indication that a man with half interest in a store--from Zimmerman--

 

[101]

assumed a little bit too much management, in our opinion; so we decided to cut him down to a third. We told John Williams that when the profits of that store had paid off the cost of it, that he would own a third of it and Payne and Evans would own two-thirds of it. He kept up the tradition, and at the end of twelve months period he had his store paid for. In the meantime, Mr. Payne's man, Bill Werthe, had developed under Mr. Payne, and we put a store in a new shopping center, which was the first ever built in Kansas City, at 31st Terrace and Main, where Pla-Mor now is. You recall where Pla-Mor now is? Well, that was called the Stop and Shop Market, and it was a gigantic, big building with all kinds of merchants under one roof--the first of its kind in Kansas City.

FUCHS: That would have been very close to your second store then.

EVANS: Oh, just a block, but it had a parking area; and if the store was to succeed, people had to

 

[102]

come from all over town because it was a gigantic undertaking, and there was a grocery store in there; a haberdashery store; and a hardware store. And then we had a drugstore inside this Stop and Shop Market. If I recall right, the building was four hundred feet square, so you can imagine what kind of a large store it was.

FUCHS: Would there have been any objection from Zimmerman in the store at 31st and Main?

EVANS: No, because it would all have to be transient business under this big Stop and Shop plan, figuring that it would not hurt our store at Hunter Avenue and Main or Zimmerman's store at 31st and Main. All we had to buy, of course, was fixtures to put into that store, and merchandise. Unfortunately the Stop and Shop Market itself was not successful. Of course, there were motor cars, but not too many had them. A gigantic investment, and they went broke. That building was later bought and taken over and that's where the Pla-Mor Ice Rink was, by the way. It's just been done away with in the

 

[103]

last twelve months and the great big, gigantic discount store is there, Atlantic Mills--just opened, probably you noticed in the paper, a month ago. Well anyway, the P1a-Mor Bowling took over, and they had an ice rink there and the ballroom. We actually did not lose any money in our drugstore; we didn't make very much, and when they went broke, the Pla-Mor Corporation, we moved our fixtures and merchandise to a storeroom we rented at 35th and Indiana; and Bill Werthe went in there as manager and did very well in that particular store. Then we started to have little serious trouble with Mr. Zimmerman, our first boy. He said, "Here, you and Mr. Payne have got four or five drugstores, and I've only got a half of one drugstore, what am I going to do; how am I going to expand?"

So, we told him that if he would develop a man that could run a drugstore, and he put up half the money and Payne and Evans put up the other half, that when this man, that he had developed,

 

[104]

had it paid for, Zimmerman would own a third and the man he developed a third, and Payne and Evans would own a third. He had a boy by the name of Gustafson who was a hard-working, energetic young druggist. We felt sure that he could run a store, so we bought a store at 39th and Summit on the southwest corner and put Gustafson in. That's now on the trafficway and, incidentally, a drugstore is still there. I don't know how they do business because the traffic goes by there so fast they can't stop. But anyway, there's still a drugstore in the same identical room and building. And it did very well; Gustafson was a good operator and he made money, and I am sure that he paid off in a year, too. Then we experienced more difficulty because we went on and Mr. Payne and I kept buying stores; and in the meantime I'd hired a young man by the name of Ray Sears and he was a capable young fellow. We went down to Lawrence, Kansas and bought a drugstore that was an old, old-time store owned and operated by two boys by the name of Dick--the Dick Brothers operated a

 

[105]

store there for many years. It was an old-time, dirty drugstore. We purchased that about 1923, I think it was. I remember we gave $20,000 for it and then threw out all the fixtures. I think we paid a man to haul them away and paid $10,000 for a new set of fixtures and put Sears in to operate that on the basis that when the profits paid for it, he would own a third; Mr. Payne and I would own two-thirds. Well, Mr. Zimmerman, our original man, said, "Here are you and Mr. Payne still buying stores and I've only got my half of one and a third of another."

"All right, when Gustafson develops a man who can run a drugstore, why, you put up a fourth, and Gustafson can put up a fourth, and we'll put up a half (Payne and I) and we'll put him in a drugstore. So Gustafson developed a boy by the name of Paul Schwartz and we went up to Acheson, Kansas and bought a drugstore. They kept getting higher in price, because I remember we paid $35,000 for that one and it worked out and he got it paid for.

 

[106]

FUCHS: Was this movement outside of Kansas City more or less initiated by the other partner in the store, or did you and Payne feel that you'd like to expand outside?

EVANS: Oh, Payne and I felt that the towns such as Lawrence, Kansas and Leavenworth and Acheson and St. Joseph were ideal because you got away from the bad competitive situation that we had with the Katz Drug Company in Kansas City; and we just felt that it was a good location. That was a good store, and Paul paid off his share. And they went on; we kept on and on and on and everybody developing somebody. I had to carry a book around in my pocket with a list of who the partners was and what their interest was--I mean, you couldn't remember because it would be a half owner, a third owner, a quarter owner and four, five, six or seven partners, maybe in one drugstore; in the case of Paul Schwartz, why, here was Payne and I a part owner and Zimmerman a part owner and Gustafson a part owner and Schwartz a part owner.

 

[107]

Then Schwartz developed a man and that added another partner to a string of them.

So, we got up to 1928, the latter part, and the early part of 1929 when money from investment bankers was very easy to get. In those days we had no Securities and Exchange Act to govern the investment bankers and they could do most anything and everything that they wanted, and did. In other words, they could sell any kind of security; there was no law or regulation against it and they certainly did a job of selling some that were pumped pretty full of air and water. Incidentally, I'm a little ahead of my story. I don't believe we've covered our forming the Crown Drug Company?

FUCHS: No.

EVANS: Mr. Payne and I had gotten about six or eight stores, I've forgotten the number, operating under our management; and a couple of our friends whom we knew as salesmen, John Watkins, who operated a couple of drugstores in a similar manner, that is, with partners. They were great friends of ours

 

[108]

and along about, I think it was 1922, my wife wanted to go up to Chicago to visit a cousin of hers. I hadn't had any time off and Mr. Payne said that if I would go up to Chicago on a little vacation, when I came back he and Mrs. Payne would take a vacation. So I took the first vacation and went to Chicago.

While there, I saw the Walgreen Drugstores all around Chicago. It looked to me like there must be hundreds of them and it was quite an impressive sight on an old druggist from Kansas City to see so many stores of the same name. I looked up Mr. Walgreen, called him and made an appointment, and went out to his beautiful office and warehouse, where he made his ice cream, where he put up a lot of drugs and things he sold in his store, and made all of his syrups--fruits for the fountain and everything. Mr. Walgreen was a wonderful individual. He took me around and showed me his entire operation and how he had started with one drugstore and how he'd built it up. I really got bit with the chain store bug.

 

[109]

I came back to Kansas City and got the two Watkins boys and Payne and told them about the wonderful experience with Mr. Walgreen and what a great operation he had, and that I had made an appointment with Mr. Walgreen for the three of them and to go up and see the same thing that I had seen; and they did. They got sold on the chain drugstore business with the wonderful cooperation, help and advice from Mr. Walgreen; and the two Watkins boys and Payne and I determined that we would pool our interests and form Crown Drug Company.

We'd had quite a time in determining the name for our new so-called drugstore, because our drugstores (Payne and my drugstores) were called Payne-Evans, and Watkins' was called, one John S. Watkins and one C. Morris Watkins. The boys told me that on the way up to Chicago on the train they had discussed a name to call it, and while they were there, and on the way back. They wanted something that was easy to remember and something that would be easy to symbolize and all of a sudden, I don't

 

[110]

know who it was (Payne probably), said "Well, what are we talking about. When Tom and I bought the drugstore at Hunter and Main from Harry Wilkerson, he called it Crown Pharmacy. So why don't we use the name Crown Drug Company and Incorporate? It's simple, easy, and not too many letters when you buy an electric sign. They all thought it was wonderful and I agreed. And so, when they came back we pooled all of our drugstores together. This was in February, 1923.

FUCHS: Did this require acquiescence from your other partners?

EVANS: Oh, yes.

FUCHS: Of course you had controlling interest in each of the stores?

EVANS: We had controlling interest. We met with them and told them what we wanted to do, and we set prices on each one of the stores and gave them stock--common stock in the new Crown Drug Company Corporation for what their interest was worth on

 

[111]

the basis of the prices we set, which were generous prices. I was looking the other day; I still have the folder with the original figures, where we set those stores down. I remember our first store at Hunter Avenue and Main was put in at $40,000. It actually had a value, probably an actual book value, of about $15 or $18,000, oh, I'd say, maybe $20,000. I'd say $12,000 worth of inventory and $8,000 worth of fixtures. Well, we put it in on the basis of $40,000. We did the store at 31st and Main--the Zimmerman partner store--at $40,000; 39th and Main, $40,000; the store at 25th and Troost was a smaller store and it went in for $25,000. Zimmerman got his stock. He was a half-owner at 31st and Main. He got $20,000 worth of stock--his interest in 31st and Main. Mr. Payne and I each got $10,000 for that because we were half-owner. Gustafson got twenty-five percent of--I think his store at 39th and Summit was priced at $30,000. Well, he got his proportion of that and so did Zimmerman and Schwartz. The Watkins

 

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boys did the same thing, and when we put the Watkins boys' stores in and our stores in to form Crown Drug Company, we had to elect officers, of course. We decided that the easiest and best way to do it, was to do it by age. John Watkins was the oldest, so we made him president; Mr. Payne was next oldest and we made him vice-president; C. Morris Watkins was the next oldest and we made him secretary; and I was the youngest, so I was treasurer.

FUCHS: Is this a common sort of thing in business?

EVANS: I don't know as I ever heard of it before, but it saved an argument because I'm sure we all felt that we ought to have been president. I know I felt that I should. I had worked hard but I knew that they felt the same way, so the suggestion of age saved the big argument, and that's the way it was formed.

FUCHS: At this time, incidentally, Crown Drug Company owned no buildings, is that correct?

 

[113]

EVANS: That's right. It owned no buildings but leased all of our stores. The Crown Drug Company did have a warehouse where we kept merchandise.

FUCHS: You purchased this after you incorporated as Crown Drug Company?

EVANS: Crown Drug Company owned it and we supplied our stores out of there and had our offices there.

Well, we were all big chain store operators and no need to work those eighteen hours a day, seven days a week, and everybody quit work and became an executive, and the profits certainly did suffer. All hired help running the individual stores--let's see, there were about fifteen to eighteen stores, I think; while they had some stock, there was a lot of help to be hired, and after seven months of operation of Crown Drug Company, why things didn't look so good, Jim. There was too much overhead and not enough volume and making no money, and it was a pretty serious situation. In fact, it looked like that if we

 

[114]

continued, we’d just be broke, just have to go broke--four high-powered executives drawing a pretty good salary out of a business that wasn’t making much money and it just wasn't a happy situation.

After about seven months, the two Watkins boys and Payne and I, who consisted of the directors and officers, decided that it was a mistake, and so we dissolved the Crown Drug Company corporation and turned back our stock and took our stores back. We each got our stores back and turned in our stock--Zimmerman turned in his stock and got his interest back in 31st and Main and his interest in 39th and Summit, and then Payne and Evans and their group of managers went back to work as in the olden days and the profits came right back.

In the meantime, in this seven or eight months period, a tremendous amount of money had been spent on advertising the name Crown Drug Company. Mr. Payne and I determined that we did not want to go back calling our stores Payne-Evans Drug Company and lose the value of that advertising. So our lawyers set up Crown Drug Company and kept the

 

[115]

corporation alive with the two Watkins boys and Payne and I owning all of it; and we asked the Watkins boys for permission to use the Crown name and they readily gave it to us. They went back to using their own individual names. After about six or eight months operation our business was terrific because we were back looking after it and running it--Zimmerman, Gustafson, Werthe, Williams, and everybody working.

FUCHS: And all carried the Crown name?

EVANS: The Crown name, but the Watkins boys had gone back to their name. Our business was just wonderful. The Watkins boys' business was not so good and they determined it was because they had gone back to their individual names. So, they asked permission to call their stores Crown Drug Company, and, of course, readily got it and they started calling theirs Crown Drug Company. So we: operated Crown Drug Company--individual stores that were individually owned but called Crown Drug stores. The Watkins boys owned theirs; John and his partners

 

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owned a group; Morris and his partners owned a group; and Payne and Evans and our group owned a large group. In fact, Payne and I had, I think, twenty-two or twenty-three stores, but the corporation owned nothing.

FUCHS: Did the Watkins brothers' stores, after they reassumed the name Crown, notice a great change in business?

EVANS: Yes, because we immediately took them in to do advertising under the name of Crown Drug Company and their sales went way up and so did ours, but we were individually owned. That we continued for a good many years. We opened a warehouse, owned by the corporation that we had put money into, at 3033 Main, where we had a small stock of inventory. We kept adding stores with partners in the ownership, as we had been, but instead of calling them Payne-Evans Drugstores, we called them Crown Drug Company number 1, number 2, number 3 and so forth; and the Watkins boys did the same thing.

 

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Then, we went to the Franklin Ice Cream Company, who were suppliers of our ice cream, and we borrowed from them--the Crown Drug Company corporation--$150,000, with which we bought four drugstores that were owned by the Crown Drug Company corporation. We put managers in those stores, but we kept on operating our individual stores. We owned four stores, by the corporation; we determined along in that period, I think about 1926 or '27, that we needed a larger warehouse.

FUCHS: Was stock issued on these four stores?

EVANS: No, no. The stock was owned by John and Morris Watkins and Payne and I--all the common stock. And the corporation just went to Franklin Ice Cream Company and borrowed $150,000 and bought the store; so we owned the stock already, there was no additional stock. We just owed the $150,000. In addition to buying the stores, we wanted to build a warehouse; that's why we borrowed that much money. So I bought the ground at 31st and Grand Avenue

 

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and Crown Drug Company, the corporation, erected a warehouse. As I remember, that warehouse cost $40,000, and I was able to get an insurance loan on it over a ten year period for $35,000, and there we set up our offices and our warehouse. Each of us spent only a small part of our time there because we were busy running our individual stores.

FUCHS: Now you earlier had had a warehouse when you...

EVANS: At 3033 Main.

FUCHS: That was a building you didn't own?

EVANS: That was just a buildin