Part 4: A New Venture
John returned to the United States after the war and opened a grocery store with a partner. To service his patrons with the best service possible, he opened early and closed late, every day… 7 days a week. Needless to say, the days were long and the work was hard. It was a successful enterprise with one exception: no matter how hard John worked, he could not make the business grow.
It didn’t have much to do with John’s abilities or inabilities. It was all based on the way goods and services were available during the early 1900’s. People in cities lived in neighborhoods. Henry Ford introduced the Model T in 1906. America had very few roads, paved or unpaved, and horses were still in everyday use.
The Neighborhood Way of Life…
People worked, shopped and worshiped within walking distances of their homes. Grocery stores were no exception. They serviced neighborhoods and were located within walking distance of patrons’ homes. There was a finite number of families patronizing the local grocery store… not just John’s store, but any local grocery store.
Hard work never slowed or discouraged John, but working hard at something with a lack of a growth potential was very frustrating.
Although John did not consider himself a marketing genius, one day he conducted his first market survey. Looking through his grocery store window he observed huge laundry wagons passing by loaded with laundry tubs.
He also noticed the poor, tired horse that could just about pull the wagon. This image triggered a spark of an idea. John felt that if he could provide a valuable service to more people in a larger area, unlike the confined neighborhood of a grocery store, he would have a chance to build a business. As John’s thoughts developed, he concluded that it would make sense to first concentrate on a certain section of a city. Since he was already familiar with the North End of New Bedford, Massachusetts, this is where it would be. And, what better idea than a laundry?