Adrian Taylor, 2015 Parade Marshall, looks back on 40 years

In his long history of retail, Adrian Taylor is something of a sole survivor. Out of the military, the young Ogden, Utah native became one of the youngest people ever to manage a Grant City store, once a string of variety stores not unlike the modern Kmart. In the mid 1970s, Taylor began worrying that the company would have to close some of its West Coast stores, and so he cashed out his benefits and left.
The entire company went bankrupt shortly thereafter. Taylor, though, had made it out with his retirement, vacation and sick pay, and used it to buy a Ben Franklin store in Monroe.
At its peak, Ben Franklin stores numbered about 2,500, and even Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, got his start in retail running one. Today, there are only about 200 Ben Franklin craft stores left nationwide.
While the retailers around him toppled, Taylor has kept the Monroe location not only open, but thriving, for 40 years this year, and the Monroe Chamber of Commerce has honored him for the achievement by naming him Parade-áMarshall of the Monroe Fair Days Parade, to take place next month.
Taylor, reviewing his career in his bright second floor office at the Monroe Ben Franklin Crafts and Frame Shop, chalked his longevity in business up to innovation and determination.
When he left Grant City, for one thing, he was determined not to have to live in a city any more.
"Two years before we made the decision to leave, we looked all over the West Coast, up and down, and in our travels, we stopped in Snohomish,GÇ¥ he said. "There was a bakery there and in the bakery there was a sign on the door that said "Open Monday and Wednesday, sometimes Friday and Saturday, and never on Sunday.' I thought, what a neat concept. A farming community, that's what I'm after.GÇ¥
He had some friends who worked for Ben Franklin, and it seemed like a good fit; Ben Franklin stores sold a lot of the same things that Grant City had, but the stores were smaller. Taylor began working with Ben Franklin's corporate office to find a place to establish a franchise, and Taylor told them that if there was a suitable location like Snohomish, Washington anywhere, that would be perfect.
"I didn't know that they already had a location in Monroe, and they were giving another guy the first chance to take it,GÇ¥ said Taylor. "In December they called me and said, "We have a location near Snohomish, seven miles to the east. I think you'll like it.' And I got on a plane, looked at it, and called my wife and said, "This is it.'GÇ¥
In 1974, though, there were no houses to rent in Monroe, Taylor found. There was, however, someone building some houses in Monroe Terrace; Taylor helped the builder finish one of the homes so that he could move his family in.
The first Ben Franklin location was in the Monroe Shopping Center, near the smokestack, in the space that is occupied by Sherwin-Williams Paint Store today.
Taylor knew that opening the store was going to to demand a lot of his family, so he made his children some deals. He gave his son, then 12, carte blanche to select all the inventory for the toy department.
"He did it without guidance, except for a few basic rules,GÇ¥ said Taylor.
And his daughter was promised a horse, which she got.
The family stayed in business at that location for 11 years, and did very well, realizing a greater profit per square foot than almost any other major retailer, including the Bon Marche.
When Taylor found the current location of the store, he and his son built it together, getting the financing and finishing the building two months ahead of schedule and under budget.
But Taylor was noticing that Ben Franklin's corporate structure was looking as shaky as Grant City's once had. So he formed a small group of buyers to start traveling to China to buy wholesale once or twice a year. In the 1990s, Ben Franklin went bankrupt, but because of the power of the buying group that eventually grew to include 200 stores, Taylor was able to stay in business.
Eventually, the Ben Franklin name was bought by a company called Promotions Unlimited, and Taylor pays a yearly fee for the use of the name, as do the other 200 or so franchisees nationwide.
Today Taylor owns two Ben Franklins, one in Monroe and the other in Bonney Lake, which his son Adrian runs. Eventually, Adrian will take over the Monroe location, too, said Taylor, although he allowed that he had no plans to retire.
In 40 years, Taylor points out one thing in particular of which he is proud.
"We have given the opportunity to over 600 young people for their first job experiences,GÇ¥ he said. "We have received "Thank You' notes for helping many to get a good start in life.GÇ¥
And, he said, he is glad to have helped support the creativity of the community for 40 years.
He was surprised at the Monroe Chamber of Commerce Community Awards this spring when he learned he'd been named Marshall of the Fair Days Parade, to take place Saturday, Aug. 29.
But he is looking forward to it. His son is bringing up an antique Franklin automobile and they will rid in it together.
The car is an apropos choice. Like the business with which it shares a name, it is one a few of its kind that not only have survived early eras that many of its peers did not, it is poised to keep running well for another generation.


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