Oral History Interview with
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.
Tom L. Evans
Kansas City, Missouri
November 28, 1962
J. R. Fuchs
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Evans Oral History Transcripts]
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
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript
indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral
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 It may not be published in full except by permission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
[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
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.
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
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
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,
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 fountainbought 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
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,
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
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
FUCHS: Now, this was about 1921 when Mr. Truman and
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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,
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
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--
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
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
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,
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
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
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.
Then Schwartz developed a man and that added another partner to a string
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?
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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?
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
continued, wed just be broke, just have to go broke--four high-powered
executives drawing a pretty good salary out of a business that wasnt
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
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
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.
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
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
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