cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
My habit of reading obituaries each day brought the news of the death of a person whom I had worked for and for whom I had the highest regard. Roy Butter passed away on July 27th having suffered from the recent onset of acute leukemia.
I answered a ‘want ad’ in a Sunday Milwaukee Journal from my residence in Viroqua, WI and was eventually hired by Roy to work for him at what was then Butter Hardware in Menomonee Falls. That marked the move of my family from our hometown and families to Menomonee Falls in 1963. Roy helped us find the apartment in which we would begin our life in the big city. We moved almost immediately and began to create our new lives in this area. We were young, had never lived anywhere other than our hometown of some 3,700 people, and left loving families behind in the move.
I didn’t know an offset hinge from a cabinet pull, but Roy taught me about the wholesale hardware business. He taught me how to go through the ‘Kardex’ system on Saturdays to write up the orders to replenish the inventory after being sure we could buy enough to get the right prices on the whole order. I spent time walking through every aisle to familiarize myself with the products we sold to lumber yards and hardware stores. I took the incoming telephone orders from the sales people Roy employed, and then wrote up the orders and priced them before they went to the warehouse to be filled and shipped. I ran the weekly direct mail sales pieces that were sent to every hardware seller in the tri-state area.
I worked for Roy for about six years and left to pursue other opportunities. He was understanding, asked me if I was sure this was the right thing to do, and then gave me his blessings. I didn’t really understand just how much he had taught me until much later. He taught me about business. He taught me about life. He taught me about how to handle successes and how to handle the occasional failure. He taught me how to treat people, how to build a business based on providing great service and fair prices. I watched as Roy innovated in what was a pretty staid and non-creative world. He had taken over the company started by his great-grandfather as a hardware store at 12th and Mitchell Streets in Milwaukee in 1872.
Roy morphed The Butter Company, as it had become known, into a new company called Design House. His new company supplied other products such as lighting and ceiling fans to retailers across the country.
I had the opportunity many years ago, and many years after having worked for Roy, to be able tell him just how much he had meant to me and my family. My wife and I were eating at the Black Kettle and I saw Roy seated with some business people, and walked over to tell him how much I had appreciated his help and his guidance way back when I was still very ‘wet behind the ears’. He graciously shook my hand and thanked me. That was my last opportunity to see Roy and I am thankful that I used it well.