Couple finds a way through 25 years of HRK

BeachBerniceJimP5080018.jpg
BeachBerniceJimP5080018.jpg

Bernice and Jim Beach, owners of HRK Warehouse in Marion, say they have made a lot of friends in their 25 years in business.Don Ratzlaff / Free Press

Jim and Bernice Beach admit they?ve gotten rich during the 25 years they?ve owned and operated HRK Warehouse, their general-merchandise business at 109 N. Roosevelt in Marion.

Of course, the Beaches tend to count their wealth in terms of friends rather than dollars and cents.

?We?ve made a lot of friends, and all of them are customers,? said Jim.

Added Bernice: ?We?ve got a good business, but not many customers?we?ve got a lot of friends.?

The Beaches purchased their building almost by accident. When the previous owner, Bill Hillegoss, was auctioning off the business in 1983, the Beaches? son happened to be the auctioneer. Unknown to Bernice, Jim submitted a bid for the building ?for a lot less than they were asking.?

To Jim?s surprise, the bid was accepted. And he wasn?t the only one who was surprised.

?I was clerking (the auction) and he came back and said, ?Ma, we just bought a building in Marion,? Bernice recalled with a laugh. ?It was only the second time I?d been to Marion in my life.?

The Beaches first thought they?d use the building a couple of weekends, then rent it out.

?But it just kind of blossomed,? Bernice said of the business. ?Everybody was just so thrilled to have something here, so we had a motor home and brought it up here.

?I can?t believe we?ve been her for 25 years,? she added, ?but I also can?t remember a time when we weren?t.?

With the encouragement of their growing circle of friends, the Beaches started attending a general-merchandise trade show in Las Vegas twice a year and a home-furnishings show in Tupelo, Miss., to select merchandise.

?We just look for the bargains and what we think will sell here,? Bernice said. ?With us, if we get a good buy on something, that what we mark it at. It?s always worked for us.?

The routine has continued now for a quarter century, and the diversity of the inventory is what makes HRK unique. The shopper will find everything from furniture, to tools, to toys?and a lot more.

?We have a lot of people who come in from the lake on Sunday afternoons?they have a water leak and need something to fix the faucets, they need a screwdriver and a pair of pliers, or they come up to paint and forget their paint brush,? Bernice said.

?We also sell a lot of water stuff?ski rope, tubes and pull-behinds and all that.?

The business started as a weekend enterprise, with the Beaches making the commute to Marion from their rural home south of El Dorado every weekend.

?About the second or third year, I stayed open daily for eight months, and the gross was the same as for Friday, Saturday and Sunday,? Bernice said. ?So we just went back to Friday, Saturday and Sunday.?

Over the years, the business has gone through physical changes. When the Beaches acquired the building, half the structure had a dirt floor beneath open rafters. Today the building is fully finished, and the Beaches acquired the former filling station adjacent to the property around 1990.

?When the station came up for sale, we bought it for parking space, but that also gave us more room to buy more and store room,? Bernice said.

In 1995 the business was severely damaged by fire.

?We lost it all and had only half the insurance,? Bernice recalled. ?But people came and helped us. We weren?t sure we were going to go back in, and we knew we had to dig pretty deep into our pockets to do it. But we knew we wanted to do it because of all of the help we received. They kept saying, ?Please don?t close, we need HRK.??

Meeting the needs of customers has been satisfying, but the Beaches still point to the friendships as their most best accomplishment.

?We?ve had people who came with children who were babies, and now their children are coming back with their babies,? Bernice said. ?So, it?s more like an extended family than it is a business.?

Reaching the ages of 85 and 70 this year, Jim and Bernice plan to keep the business going as long as health permits it. Linda Lovelady now manages the operation for the Beaches, which has lightened their load.

?I think about retiring, but I?d I?d like to wait until I get old,? Jim joked.

Over the years, the Beaches have raised six children and today enjoy an extended family of 24 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren.

?When you get to be our age, and get to do what you want and be around people, we think we have the best of both worlds,? Bernice said. ?When we?re home, we baby-sit our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.?

Added Jim: ?So we?ve got plenty to do.?

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