Dixons serve town for fifty-eight years
Webster defines era a “a period set off or typified by some prominent figure our characteristic feature.” That definition is certainly applicable for Main Street Lusk, as the Ben Franklin closes its doors after fifty-eight years of service to this community.
Mabel Edmondson opened the business in the Ranger Hotel in 1936 during the depths of the depression. She and her husband had previously operated a movie theater with a dance all on the floor above. That building was on the lot beside the Lusk Liquor Store where the boxcar now resides. Lucille Erlewine was one of her earliest clerks.
In 1943 at the age of 14, Ardeth Dixon joined the business as a clerk. Of course, she was not yet Ardeth Dixon and the Ben Franklin was not yet in its present location, but was instead in the smaller facilities where Denny Meier’s office is now. From her vantage point in a balcony style office above the floor, Edmondson supervised her staff. “She had been a school teacher and a superintendent, and she was very strict,” recalled Dixon. “If someone cam in and you didn’t go right up and offer to help them, she would stand up, stare at you and clear her throat. I was kind of bashful, but I knew I had to do it. I kind of liked the work.”
Dixon lived in Edmondson’s basement during her high school years. She paid so much for room and her breakfast in addition to helping with the housework. She made enough money to go to the three changes in the movie each week and to buy school clothes – about 19 cents an hour. Her store hours were two hours each day after school, except on Wednesdays when they changed the window displays, an event that often ended at midnight. On Saturdays she worked from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m., “and then went dancing after that,” she chuckles. The window displays were built on glass shelves placed on inverted vases and other supports, that had to be constructed from the area next to the window backwards, each layer successively higher to display more merchandise. The project was a monumental task.
After her marriage at 17 in 1946, she worked for Edmondson intermittently, for several years as a manger. But it was stressful. At one point, she was forced to take a three-month rest cure, since her doctor diagnosed her as near to a nervous breakdown. When she asked how soon she could return to work, the doctor informed her she could only return to work at all if she were able to “not let things bother her.”
During Edmondson’s time, Dixon discovered that the Penney’s store was planned to liquidate its business and vacate the building currently occupied by the Lusk Herald and part of Key Bank. Edmondson inquired about the facility and the Ben Franklin moved a second time, expanding its floor space from a 25’ width to a 35’width. It became Dixon’s favorite facility.
In 1959 or 1960, Edmondson decided to retire, and she wanted Dixon to purchase the business. However money was very tight, so Dixon worked for an entire year strictly for the working capital. Then her wages when to $3,900 – half of which was applied to the principle and half of which was applied to the interest. At the 2% interest charged by the bank at the time, she was actually paying 10%.
In1971 the business became hers free and clear and her husband, George who had cut meat in Safeway for many years, joined her in the endeavor. Together they have developed the business, including the expansion to their current facilities, a move which expanded their merchandise potential from a 35’ width to a 50’ width.
Dismantling the business was a difficult decision for the Dixons. Ardie is concerned that the community will lack the diversity of merchandise that the Dixons have developed. The distances involved and the expenses of a day out of town make shopping that way expensive. Though the Dixons are proud of the contributions their business has made to the community, they feel that it is the right time for their lives to take a new direction. For them, regret intermingles with anticipation. For the community it ends a local merchandising era.
The Lusk Herald, June 29, 1994
|12/13/1980 -||228 S Main||Certificate of Purchase||View Property|