By Michael Wurtz
Merle Allen, a Prescott resident of seventy-seven years, passed away on March 4, 1997. His business career, beginning in 1920, included a milk depot, a grocery store that grew into three stores, and a wholesale grocery business. Much of the Allen family history, including an oral interview, is documented at the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives and Library. Within the collection is this article that appeared in the Prescott Evening Courier on June 26, 1936.
ALLEN STARTED ON SHOESTRING
Sixteen years of progress, slow but sure at first, then rapid the last few years, have marked the development of Allen's markets in Prescott. Sixteen years ago, on September 1, 1920, a young man not yet 21 years of age came to Prescott with his bride of only a few months and a five-dollar bill in his pocket, representing his total cash assets. He opened a small store at 324 West Gurley where Book Nook is today. His business eventually moved west one lot to what is now Prescott Natural Foods and christened it "The West End Milk Depot." The employees were Merle M. Allen, and his sister, Miss A.B. Allen.
Today the company has 35 employees, three large, modern grocery stores, and a big feed department which serves both wholesale and retail buyers of Northern Arizona.
Allen's Market executives and employees have been too busy to cry about the NRA (National Recovery Administration), the depression, or the New Deal. They are doing the business because they buy right, because they advertise in a big way, and because they sell right, with a guarantee to please.
"We attribute the success of our business to the fact that our customer appreciates quality merchandise at fair prices, combined with friendly service," President Allen asserted today.
"Another factor of note in the organization is economical operation. We avoid over-buying, but when we buy, we buy in large quantities for a quick turnover. This makes it possible for us to advertise 'Retail at Wholesale Prices,'" according to R. Melvin Johnson, advertising and sales manager. "Then, too, everyone in our employ is an expert in his own line through study and experience. And it's a loyal group of employees we have, too. They apply themselves to their tasks conscientiously. The policy has been to take the employees into our confidence. In regular business meetings, details of all departments are discussed very freely."
Dinners and dinner dances are a regular feature among Allen employees. The cost is handled entirely by the company, without any expense to the employees.
"Our policy of training our local boys for department head, by schooling them in every detail as delivery boys, stock men, assistant, department heads, and then managers has proven to be very satisfactory," President Allen added.
The net profits are distributed among the employees who keep in Prescott all profits of the concern, as well as their regular wages."
Also appearing on the same page were shorter articles of some of Allen's employees.
SAYS ALLEN'S GROWTH DUE TO TEAM WORK
Miss A. B. Allen, secretary-treasurer for the Allen Trading company, has helped the company grow from its infancy in 1920, when she helped her brother, Merle, now president, organize what has come to be know as Allen's Markets.
"To what do you attribute the growth of the business?" she was asked. "We have all got in and worked," she replied. "There never has been any friction. Everyone has a certain part to play and does it. I believe real teamwork is the answer."
ALLEN'S NO.3 STORE BUILDS UP BIG TRADE
Allen's Market No.3, at the corner of West Gurley street and Grove avenue, the scene of Saturday night's Allen's sixteenth anniversary celebration finale, is situated on one of the busiest corners in the city, yet rare is the time when there is not ample parking. This store is managed by the up and coming Joe Allen who, through the years, has packed them with experience in merchandising. Surrounded by willing helpers, he has made remarkable strides for store No.3 since it became a member of Allen's Markets January a year ago. Allen's also delivers.
Although Merle Allen passed away, his ethics and way of doing business continue to be a factor in creating what we recognize today as Prescott's friendly community.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (bub8236p)
Reuse only by permission.
Allen's NuWay Market in the 1920s.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pb146f23i14)
Reuse only by permission.
Allen's Market in the mid-1930s.