In the fall of 1963, I was a sophomore at the University of Iowa in Iowa City in need of a job within walking distance from the dormitory. My brother had worked at the downtown Osco Drug (store #826) the year before, but he did not return to Osco, so I applied for a part time position starting my 33-year career.
The store manager was Bob Frantzen, the 1st assistant manager was Byron Luke, and a guy finishing up his pharmacy degree by the name of Dave Maher was there as well. Both managers at that store would attain major leadership roles with the company in future decades. I was one lucky guy but didn’t know it.
Looking back at the 1970’s and 1980’s, I’m amazed at the changes we experienced, as the company grew from single store, one-market locations into multi-store markets. I was fortunate to be along for the ride, especially for the supply-side changes. I was introduced to running stock cards, placing direct orders for basic and ad/seasonal merchandise working diligently to make minimum orders without creating excessive inventory. One memory is buying dozens of Sawyer slide projectors for the Christmas season. How times have changed, but we sold them and in fact I still own a Sawyer slide projector!
As a 2nd assistant manager in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I was writing ads to balance sales along with eliminating some bad buys. Those ads were real works of art! In 1971, I was asked by Ron Grove to work on a project analyzing excess inventory. This resulted in the realization that direct seasonal orders were part of the problem. In 1970, the new store growth prompted a move to Franklin Park, Illinois to work as a new store merchandise coordinator. Working with Merchandise coordinators Bob Braden and Joe Buron, we learned how to set up standard orders for different size sections; plan-o-grams were coming. Ron and his team were already running a consolidated warehouse in Franklin Park for the Chicagoland stores, soon to be expanded to Lunt Blvd in Elk Grove. Consolidating orders for Ad/Seasonal product removed the burden for direct orders and expanded the selection choices.
Another effort involved looking at basic product in-stock levels while keeping inventory levels in-line. One of many efforts led to testing shelf labels with order points and order quantity (OP/OQ) later to be min max then CAO. I worked with Ray Bozek at the Ashland store struggling just to do a four-foot section. But in time with the help of full plan-o-grams, new ordering systems, and changed sourcing, it of course worked.
After several years as a DM I was re-united with Ron Grove at the Lunt warehouse. Because of the rapid growth in new stores, expansion of regions served, addition of thousands of new items, plus jobber cross docking the Lunt warehouse would expand twice and require a dedicated Ad/Seasonal warehouse at Pratt Blvd in just 12 years. The old days of running stock cards, making minimum direct orders became a thing of the past. For many of those years people like Tom Carroll, Doug Fetzer, Lou Rymarcsuk, Ed Van Deman, and John Bloomfield met these challenges even overcoming work stoppages and flooding with Sharon Cartwright always keeping us in line.
Looking back, to have witnessed the changes from price marking product with grease pencils to UPC codes and all the other improvements to the supply side of our business it certainly was exciting. The associations with so many great people in this process have formed many friendships that continue today.