Turn*Style was a general merchandise retail division of the former Jewel Food Companies consisting of discount department stores which operated in the Chicagoland, Boston and Michigan markets in the 1960s and 1970s. Each Turn*Style had an Osco Pharmacy, which at the time very uncommon for a discount store to contain a pharmacy in the 1960s and 1970s. At its peak, Turn*Style was comprised of more than fifty stores.
Jewel acquired the Turn*Style brand in 1961 and began to rapidly expand the chain. Sales for 1961 were listed as $14 million dollars for the four stores, with headquarters in Brighton, Massachusetts. With Jewel’s heavy investment, within years of opening a store in Racine, Wisconsin, profits as measured on a ROI (return on investment) basis were the highest within Jewel Companies. Rapid expansion, the unfortunate corporate decision to incorporate a catalog type store within its four walls, and an unrealistic divisive venture into the "Hypermarket" business all caused profits to suffer.
The economy in the late 1970s also caused Jewel to rethink its growth strategy and the decision was made to sell Turn*Style in order to concentrate its growth within its core businesses, which were food stores and drugstores. In 1978 the stores were sold to May Department Stores where twenty three of the Chicago area stores were converted to the Venture department store format. Other former Turn*Style store locations were retained by the Jewel Companies and converted to Osco Drug stores with expanded general merchandise selection. After the bankruptcy of Venture, store locations were absorbed into other chains, such as Kmart, Kohl's, ShopKo, and Burlington Coat Factory.
In September 2008 to supplement a feature article in Connections to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the closing of the chain, below are recollections submitted from Alumni Club members who were former Turn*Style employees.
From Conrad Mueller (Turn*Style employee
My tenure with Turn*Style was from 1970 to 1976. I was Sporting Goods and then Toy buyer. It was great being part of an enthusiastic team during those growing years. We all were young and aggressive, and willingly put in a lot of hours.
I notice TURNIP, our mascot, in the group picture. He was created by Jean Ehlert working with Animal Fair, the maker. Turn*Style won an industry award for its promotion of TURNIP.
An update on Don Perkins, retired chairman of Jewel Companies, Inc.
As of November 2008, at age 81, Don Perkins is keeping busy. Many Alumni Club members have fond memories of Don Perkins, and his great leadership of the company we used to know.
Donald S. Perkins is the former Chairman of Jewel Companies, Inc., a food and drug store chain. Mr. Perkins graduated from Yale University and the Harvard Business School. He served in the U.S. Merchant Marine in the mid 1940s and the Air Force in the early 1950s. Starting as a trainee with the then Jewel Tea Company in 1953, he was elected Vice President in 1960, Executive Vice President three years later, President in 1965 and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 1970. He retired from Jewel Companies, Inc. in 1983.
Mr. Perkins currently serves as a Director of LaSalle Hotel Properties, LaSalle U.S. Realty Income and Growth Fund III and Nanophase Technologies Corporation, where he is Chairman. He is also Chairman of the Council of Retired Chief Executives.
He is a Life Trustee and was Vice Chairman of Northwestern University. He co-chaired Campaign Northwestern, a university-wide effort which has raised more than $1.5 billion. He has served as a Trustee of The Ford Foundation and The Brookings Institution, as a member of The Business Council and as a Protector of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Continuity Trust. Mr. Perkins is the Founding Chairman and remains a member of the Civic Committee of The Commercial Club of Chicago. He is a member of the Advisory Boards of Blue Ridge Partners, RoundTable Healthcare Partners L.P., Shields Meneley Partners, Syrus Global, Northwestern University’s School of Communication and its School of Education and Social Policy.
For more than 30 years, he has served on corporate boards including AT&T, Aon, Corning, Cummins Engine, Eastman Kodak, Firestone, Inland Steel Industries, Kmart, Lucent Technologies, The Putnam Funds, Springs Industries and Time Warner.
From Bill Lewis:
Jewel management, after acquiring Turn*Style (East) and Osco Drug, decided to put the expertise of food, soft goods, and hard goods under one roof. Forward thinking at the time. The first store (in the West) was built in Racine, Wisconsin. I was the manager of the Osco Store in Waukegan, Illinois and was transferred to the Jewel payroll and assigned to the Racine project. After the Racine Store, we opened stores in Moline, Illinois, Davenport, Iowa, Skokie Illinois, and Harlem and Foster followed by stores in Michigan, Indiana, and Nebraska.
As one reflects back upon Turn*Styles’ growth, it is obvious we made a number of major mistakes. First, we should have dominated the Chicago market with Turn*Style Stores rather than opening stores in the above mentioned states. Secondly, we should have built one store with one central check out, as Wal-Mart and others have today. The same is true for the Jewel Osco Stores. In fact, page 72 of Don Perkins book "A Calm Temperament Expectant Of Good" reads as follows.
“He (Max Harden then Osco President) and I (Don Perkins) were visiting these new side-by-side Jewel Osco Stores as they were opening, when a heavy set bohemian woman came up to us and said "Are you part of management?" "Yes," we said. "Well," she said, “These are two wonderful stores. But would you answer just one question for me?" We smiled and said, "We'll sure try". And she literally said," Who put that ******’ wall between these two stores?" Don Perkins in his book (a must read book) said we should have had 50 Turn*Style Stores in Chicago. In my opinion, the main reason we didn't was because each company had its own report card (i.e. profit and loss statement!)
I hate to say this but with the team of people we had in Turn*Style we let one of the greatest opportunities in the world slip through our fingers!