Difficulty finding a typewriter ribbon, two armed robberies, and the help of friends and neighbors during an illness all played an important part in making one of Lincolnton's oldest businesses what it is today.
King's Office Supply at 227 East Main Street will celebrate its 60th Anniversary this week. On Wednesday (March 20) and Thursday, Hickory Leather of Vale will be setting up a mobile showroom outside King's location. If you visit them during the event you can register for an $850 chair they'll be giving away.
Inside the store, they'll be celebrating 60 years in a business that wouldn't have existed had it not been for the search for a typewriter ribbon. That's what Sam King needed.
Sam had moved his family to Lincolnton after he was transferred here by Duplan Mills. When they wanted him to relocate again—to Virginia, he switched to a job at Boger & Crawford Mills in Boger City. While working there, he went downtown to buy a typewriter ribbon but couldn't find one. Returning to his office, he decided Lincolnton needed an office supply store. He talked it over with a friend who had been laid off from his job in a mill and secured his promise to help operate the store. Sam's wife Jean would also help, but Sam would have to keep working at Boger & Crawford to have a steady income.
The store opened on the North Court Square in the location that is currently a parking lot and where Willie Heafner hopes to build a new building soon. It was October 1953. Sam had invested $2000—a tidy sum in those days. His friend got called back to work—leaving Jean to run the store with Sam providing what help he could.
In 1954, a location at 124 East Main Street became available. Sam decided to make the move. That's when the illness occurred. While the inventory was being moved to the new store, Sam got appendicitis and was hospitalized. Friends and neighbors helped Jean make the move. Then in 1956, a former pool room and other areas in the rear bordering Water Street became the warehouse in the back of the store. A next door barber shop closed and Sam added a gift shop after knocking a hole in the wall between the locations. The upstairs became available and that became a framing shop. Bud Early told Sam, just leave the framing up to me. He did...and all went well. Along the way, when J.P. Stevens took over the mill in Boger City, Sam went to work in the store full-time.
In 1966, Sam King, Jr. (Bo) headed for Wake Forest University He says he always thought he would return someday, but what he wanted for retail businesses was a men's clothing shop and a sporting goods store. After a stint in the Army, he began a brief career in banking with First Union. He might have continued that career—had it not been for the two armed robberies at the branch where he worked in Laurinburg. Somehow having an M-16 rifle pointed in your face can make you consider a change in careers. But wait! There's more to the story.
Sam had split the office supply store and the gift shop in 1970, moving the office supply store to its current location at 227 East Main Street where Broome-Early Furniture had previously operated. In 1977, Bo received a call from his mother telling him that his father had lung cancer. In November of that year, he returned to Lincolnton. Two years after Sam's death in 1982, King's sold the gift shop . Bo had applied for a loan to remodel the office supply store in 1983. A former restaurant location next door had become available and it became an office furniture addition.
Today, King's Office Supply is an anomaly in the office supply business. Locally owned office supply stores with actual storefronts (brick and mortar operations) are a distinct rarity. Stores like Penegar's in Gastonia have long since disappeared. But King's continues to provide office products, furniture and other necessities of business to local customers including individuals, businesses, industries, churches and schools. Their expanded Teachers' Supply selection is something of which Carol King is most proud. It was developed with the help of teachers who told Carol what they needed and had trouble finding.
Finding what customers need and want is important to King's success. When Ken Kindley of the Chamber of Commerce wanted a new set of super large scissors to use at Grand Openings, he called on King's. They didn't provide the scissors, but they did help him find another local business that could get them for him—so he didn't have to go out of town to get what he needed.
Kindley wrote in a recent note: “I have always considered Bo King as one of Lincolnton's icons. He is a highly respected businessman who has always supported the Chamber every year he's been in business. Whether it is downtown revitalization, commercial development or industrial development, Bo King has always been there to show support and be a team player!”
Bo King says he believes in supporting local businesses, civic organizations and charities. While chain stores main consideration is making money for their companies, locally owned businesses have a bigger stake in the community. It is those locally owned businesses that are the main supporters of local charities and civic organizations. When a church approached Carol King seeking a contribution of a prize for an event, Carol told the solicitor she would appreciate an opportunity to provide their office supply needs. “Oh, we don't buy that much,” she was told. But when the church provided a list of things they had bought out of town, they learned that they could have bought the same items at King's and saved several hundred dollars over the year. They have since become a regular customer.