It was just a little more than 55 years ago when Paul Parker Cassidy made a trip through Clinton, Iowa that led to a change in his business plan. A retailer from Quincy, he owned half interest in a Jack’s discount store in that city. At the time, he had his sights set on expanding in the discount store business and was looking to open such a store in Sterling.
It was a drive through Clinton on a Monday night that introduced him to the potential this city held, his son, Robert (Bob) Cassidy Sr., has told the Herald. Also at that time, Bob, a banker, was looking to leave that career to work alongside his father in the discount store business.
He said his father decided Clinton was the town they needed to go into and purchased land that was part of the Brick Estate. Bob, who had been a loan manager in St. Louis County, Missouri, moved his wife and two young sons to Clinton.
Paul Parker Cassidy’s feeling that success was on the horizon in Clinton was right on the mark.
The trip ultimately would lead to the creation of what would become Clinton’s first and Iowa’s largest home-owned discount store. Opening its doors in 1964 on a two-lane U.S. route in Clinton’s west end, Paul’s was on the ground floor of development in that area of the city.
A successful venture over the years, the store bobbed and weaved its way to success even as stores such as Arlen’s, Kmart, Target, Shopko and Wal-Mart built new stores around it and had the potential to lure away shoppers and cut into Paul’s profitability.
Rob Cassidy, Bob’s son and now the president and owner of the company, told the Clinton Herald in a 2014 interview that the store’s leadership learned to evolve as those challenges appeared. He said store officials knew they couldn’t complete solely on price.
The store began to add brand-name items not typically found in big-box stores. High emphasis on customer service and becoming a member of a buying group to get the best prices it could on inventory chosen based on store shopper demographics were part of the game plan. To stand out, Paul’s also focused energy on developing and growing niche shopping areas, such as sporting goods, hunting and fishing, lawn and garden, pet supplies, work wear, work boots, and athletic apparel.
But now, 55 years after Paul’s opened, Rob Cassidy on Monday announced the store at 1940 Lincoln Way will close its doors by July 31, a decision based on an increasing shift toward e-commerce shopping and growing operational costs. He said it has become increasingly difficult for an independent retailer to survive in this day and age where economy of scale is needed to cover increasing costs of operation.
It is a path that other retailers have traveled down as well. The Kmart, Shopko and Target stores that once were competition for Paul’s closed up shop here years ago as did downtown stores such as Kline’s, Stage, J.C. Penney, and Petersen’s. We wondered if the Clinton Paul’s store would suffer the same fate as its sister store in Iowa City. That store closed last July.
Sadly, it did.
In light of the changing economic times and shift in shopper habits, we are grateful for the long run that our Paul’s store had.
However, we join the many who are saddened to see that it will be no more.