I live in a beautiful little town located in southwestern Wyoming called Kemmerer. Now most people can’t even pronounce Kemmerer right. The correct pronunciation is Kemmer. Aside from not being able to pronounce the name of my town, many people don’t know the history. A very famous merchant started his first store here. It happens to be one of the main attractions. People drive by a small little park called the triangle and visit the first store and the first house of James Cash Penney or JCPenney. Many of you have visited or shopped in a JCPenney’s or somewhere in the United States, however, it all started in a small town called Kemmerer.
The mother store is located almost a block away from where I live and where my office is located. His small little cottage is just around the corner from the store. Last week, the JCPenney company donated the JCPenney statue that was in Texas and the unveiling was this weekend.
In 1898, JC Penney began working for a small chain of stores called the Golden Rule stores. Then by 1902, the owners of the Golden Rule offered him a one-third partnership in a new store that he would open in Kemmerer. Wyoming. By 1907, he purchased full interest in all three stores. It’s sort of interesting that none of us really knew or if even heard of the Golden Rule stores but all of us know about the JCPenney franchise.
During the Great Depression, JCPenney almost lost all of his wealth but he prevailed and continued to work in his stores up to 1940. What’s truly interesting about the JCPenney story is that he trained a young man he thought could be just like him in Des Moines, Iowa. That guy was Sam Walton. Does that ring a bell? If you don’t know who Sam Walton is, here’s a hint: you shop at Walmart every day.
This past weekend it was great to see the JCPenney family here again. I originally met Mrs. Penney right after her 80th birthday when she was here for a celebration at the store many years ago. The JC Penney historic store and home is part of the historic district located here in Kemmerer and was declared a historic landmark in 1978. Who knew that in the area where you grew up there were people who changed the world?
About Madonna Long: Madonna works as a disability advocate to educate policymakers and congressional leaders on disability issues. She uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair for mobility. She is a mother to four children and lives life on her terms, despite a spinal cord injury. Click here to learn more about Madonna.