Closure of S.M. Crocker and Son

This article details the closure of what had been my local Wisconsin place.  I have not been able to get a copy of the Other Opinion article mentioned, the newspaper did not make it available either in print or on paper.

 

The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

September 23, 2004

Mowers, memories, moving on

Author: Jim Jenkins; Staff Writer

Edition: Final
Section: Editorial/Opinion
Page: A16

Index Terms:
NC
RETAIL
S.M. Crocker and Son

Estimated printed pages: 3

Article Text:

The calls have picked up now, ever since Stan Crocker sort of went public in last Saturday's N&O, when he wrote a piece for the Other Opinion page announcing the closing of his outdoor power equipment business, S.M. Crocker and Son. Some customers already knew; Stan had to tell them when they came in for repairs.

But it's fair to say that the melancholy and mixed feelings caused by the announcement go beyond the Crocker household. This was a three-generation business -- Stan's Dad and grandfather ("Papa," Stan called him) started the business in 1948 after they left Dillon Supply Co. They thrived on Morgan Street in downtown Raleigh, and all manner of folks liked to come in and sit on a stool and just talk to them about their Snappers and life in general.

"This has really been sort of a microcosm of life," Stan said, standing behind the counter earlier this week. "Everything I know, I learned right here. And from the people who came in here. We go through life and we don't know people's stories...it's so interesting to know what the rest of people's lives are about, and people have always come in here and talked."

He was interrupted periodically by callers, most of them finishing off the conversation by telling Stan they appreciated his business, his service through the years. "Thank you," he would say, time and again. "I appreciate your business, too."

Now 50, Stan learned the business from Dad and Papa. He worked also for years with Ben Clifton, whom he described as "my right arm," until Clifton left, and with Rodney Fleming, who came to the business in 1978 and has been a skilled mechanic for Crocker and Son ever since. Stan speaks with familial affection of so many people who have passed his way.

"For some customers," he said, "it's been three generations, or maybe even four. We've sold Snappers since the 1950s."

Indeed, a visitor to the place would enter a small office area and have to work his way around shiny Snappers on the floor. If you needed a part, Stan would go in the back and likely dig it out for you, much in the way a trusty neighborhood hardware store owner could always find what you needed, though to the untrained eye his system of organizing nuts and bolts and the like might seem confusing. Alas, the neighborhood hardware store has faded from us as well, a victim of time, fate, or all those other things that make it tough to be a small, independent business.

"When I started thinking about closing," Stan said, "I tried to think about what my grandfather and my father would think. And I believe they would have understood. This business has never been a cakewalk. It has been a difficult thing to do. And I think they would have felt the same way they must have felt when they left Dillon Supply -- that it was time to move on."

He's going to write some. Maybe do some woodworking and photography. The building will stay in the family. He'll watch to see if he can help with downtown Raleigh's development.

He is again interrupted. A tall, gray-haired fellow comes in with a question about a part.

"It's an old John Deere," he says. "I think it's the condenser. Do y'all have one? I know my grandfather bought it here because the sticker is still on it."

Stan goes in the back. For once, he doesn't have the part. He writes down some information.

"Thanks," the guy says.

And then, before Stan can resume his conversation, there's another call from a thankful longtime customer.

Today, the front of the store is pretty much empty. The new stuff is gone, some spare parts are for sale on a table. Behind the counter are a stained-glass "Crocker" sign Stan made, and some pictures -- his mother and father on Fayetteville Street in the 1950s, his grandfather and great-grandfather, the old shop at Dillon Supply, where Dad and Papa worked on the early versions of chain saws. A couple of old slogans. A calendar.

And of course, memory, but it's more than that. The Crockers treated people with a genuine kindness, and that spirit sort of lingers in the place. That's the real reason for all those calls.

Like an older gentleman whose Snapper would act up now and then over many years, and Stan would come and pick it up, and then always bring it back right when he said he would, charge a nominal sum, and talk at length about everything. Sometimes the fellow would drop by Stan's shop with a pie from his wife. And when the older fellow died last year, Stan sent his son a card talking about how much he'd miss "my old friend."

Stan, I 'preciate it.

Copyright 2004 by The News & Observer Pub. Co.
Record Number: i4hfhq89