Grocery Life May 17, 2019

By Tom Butler

Good afternoon from Butler & Bailey Market. I hope everyone is having a good week! After a short cool spell, it looks like it is about to get hot and dry. I love hot weather, so I am all for it. If I am still alive when I retire, I am going to do my best to live in warm weather year-round.

     Business has been good this spring. I think the rain kept people in for most of the winter but once it started drying out business really picked up. The overall economy seems good also, at least around our region. Most everyone I talk to that has a business is doing very well.

     I actually went and visited an old college friend’s business this week. He has a company that makes very specialized parts for manufacturing companies all over the world. A big part of his business right now is making towers for ski and surf boats. If you are ever out on the lake, you will see some of his work because those boats are very popular right now. The towers are a conglomeration of bent pipes that you tie ropes to, store all your skies and wakeboards on, and mount really loud speakers to. I can attest to the quality of the speakers because we live on the river and I can hear them inside my house when the boats go by. 

     Anyways, I have been working on a project at home, which is another story for another day, and needed some long pipes bent on a continuous radius. I thought this would be a relatively common thing to get done since I see bent pipes all around town. Apparently, they bend them in some other town because I could not find anyone around here to do it for me. After almost giving up, I remembered that Jeff’s company did all that pipe work for cars and boats. So, I gave him a call. 

     We haven’t really kept up with each other since college, but I had heard he was doing really well with his company, turns out that would be an understatement. I called him and we caught up for a few minutes and then I told him about my project. He said he could do it, so he invited me down to his facility in Loudon to get the pipe bent and to tour the facility. I figured he had some kind of little metal shop about the size of the store, with a few employees bending and welding pipe. I was wrong. He has a forty-acre site with 557,000 square feet of manufacturing space with rows and rows of million-dollar equipment. Right now, he just uses a mere 250,000 square feet of the space but will grow it to the whole place. To put that in perspective, our store is 20,000 square feet. He also has another facility in Oak Ridge that has 40,000 square feet and employees another 100 people. After seeing all this, I kind of felt embarrassed for even asking him to bend a few pipes for a home project but at least I know now if I need a thousand or million more pipes bent, he is the man for the job. We talked a little while before I left and he was telling me how good the economy was, which he would know, because he does business with companies all over the world. 

     I’m glad we finally got to catch up after all these years. I am also really proud to know yet another homegrown Knoxville boy that has achieved such great success! His company is called Protomet if you want to look it up. That was a long story just to say economic times seem to be pretty good in the Greater Rocky Hill area.

     Getting back to the grocery business, we have a big week coming up at the store. I am sure a lot of you remember my friend and business partner, George Bailey. This month marks ten years since he passed away. While he has been gone for a decade now, hardly a day goes by that I am not reminded of him. For starters, his name is on the front of the building in big red letters but more importantly, the impact he had on those of us that worked with him as well as many of our customers is still talked about on an almost daily basis. He loved the grocery business and he especially loved our customers. When he passed away, I decided we should have a special sale to honor his fifty-five years in the grocery business. So, we picked items that he loved to advertise during his career, negotiated really low prices on them, and had a big sale. Everyone really enjoyed the sale, but I think more importantly, everyone enjoyed swapping stories about their memories of Mr. Bailey.

     Earlier this year, I was thinking about how fast those ten years have gone by and how much everything has changed for me, the grocery industry, and for that matter, the world. Thankfully for me, most of the changes have been positive. I don’t think I would say the same for the grocery industry or the world. It seems like the goal of society now is to make it as impersonal as possible. They want us all to only have a relationship with our phones or computer screens and to remove the inconvenience of face to face personal relationships. We are all being pulled in that direction and I’m thinking the results of this are not going to be positive except for the people that invent the technology? 

     I know Mr. Bailey would not have liked any of these changes. He would have had no interest in selling groceries over the internet. He wanted to meet and talk to every customer that came through our door. He wanted to watch your kids grow up running around the store. He wanted to be a good neighbor and a good friend to everyone in the Rocky Hill community! He kind of instilled this in all of us that worked with him. 

     Ten years later, we still want to meet and talk to every customer that comes in the store. We want to watch your kids grow up and we want to be good neighbors in this community. I know we get off course sometimes and lose our focus, but we will always have the memory of Mr. Bailey to pull us, and especially me, back in the right direction.

     This Sunday we are starting a special sale to again, to honor the memory of Mr. Bailey and the life lessons that he instilled in us. You can find this ad on our website or in Sunday’s News Sentinel and it will run through Memorial Day, Monday the 27th. Once again, we chose all the items that he loved to advertise and tried to put really low prices on them. You might notice that I put Miller High Life beer in the ad. It has always been my policy to not advertise alcohol or tobacco, but on this occasion, I’m putting it in.

     For many years starting out, Mr. Bailey and I had some really long hard days of work here at the store. The only way I knew we were finally finished for the night was when he would say he was heading to the west wall (beer section) to get some “nectar of the gods”, which is what he called Miller High Life. No more welcome words were ever spoken to me because I knew it was finally time to go home. So, I hope you will forgive me this one time for advertising it, but it holds a special memory for me.

     I hope you will come and help us honor his memory as well as all the other great ones that have come before us during this Memorial Day week. It would’ve put a big smile on his face!


Thanks for letting us be a part of your community,
Thomas A. Butler

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 Butler and Bailey Market

7513 Northshore Dr.

Knoxville, TN 37919


2 Comments on “Grocery Life May 17, 2019

  1. Thanks for the nice blog post and rememberances of George Bailey. He was a lovely man, and you are too, Tom!

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