All in the family: A good fit
The Workingman’s Store has been family-owned and operated since 1921, when businessmen Fred P. Bay and Will Koester opened the facility on Greene Street in Marietta.
“They were the initial partners, then it went to our grandparents, Thelma and Graydon Bay,” said John Schramm, who currently operates the store, now at 113 Putnam St., with brother Dave Schramm.
Sister Susan Satterfield is a partner in the ownership, but does not work in the business with her brothers.
John said their mother, Joan Bay, married Carlton Schramm and continued operating the business from around 1977 to 1982.
“Dave went to college and went into military service at the time, so I was working with mom,” John said. “When Dave came out of the service he didn’t have any plans, so I asked him to come back and help run the store.”
In 1985 the Schramms bought another Workingman’s Store on Market Street in Parkersburg.
“It wasn’t related to our business, but the store just happened to have the same name,” Dave said. “We bought it in 1985, and then moved it to Grand Central Avenue in Vienna in 2000.”
He noted there are several small businesses with the name “Workingman’s” across the country, but none of them are affiliated with the Marietta and Vienna stores.
The brothers say operating a family-owned business has its good and not so good moments.
“There’s a tendency to express your opinion more openly-without being concerned about getting fired,” John said. “But there’s also a tendency to pitch in more and help each other out. And we’ve had few problems working together.”
“Working with family certainly has its pros and cons,” he added. “You know who you’re working with, so there’s less anxiety, but there can also be concerns because you’re too close. Sometimes hard business decisions have to be made that may not jive with family decisions.”
Although the Schramm brothers have worked together for nearly 30 years, they don’t hire other family members at the store.
“It can be hard on other employees who are not family members,” Dave said.
Asked if they would recommend starting a family business, Dave said it can be tough to start any business, but that shouldn’t stop someone from trying if they have a solid business plan.
“And if family members are going to be the employees, make sure they have the skills to contribute,” he said.
The brothers agreed the best thing about running their own business is being their own boss.
“You can do what you need to do. If we need time off we can take it,” John said.
But on the other hand the pressure to operate the business and make it successful is entirely on the owners, Dave added.
“You’re always working without a safety net,” he said.
One reason the Workingman’s Store has remained in business for more than 90 years is the flexibility to change with the times, Dave said.
“We have our retail business here at the store, but we’re also on the Internet,” he said. “And we have a mobile shoe facility-a truck that holds a thousand pairs of shoes we use to call on area industries that subsidize the cost of their employee’s safety shoes. We can go to them instead of the employees having to come here.”
Dave said specialization also helps the store compete with the much larger box stores.
“We sell a lot of public safety clothing products-police, fire and EMS uniforms and footwear,” he said. “We also provide tuxedo rentals at the store, as well as our regular line of work and casual clothing and shoes.”
The brothers hope to continue the business for many years to come, but admit they could be the last of the Schramms to operate the Workingman’s Store as none of their children or other family members are planning to take over the business.
“But there may be some grandchildren who will be interested,” Dave said.