Before I sat down with Tony Pomerleau for this VPR profile I read up on him and listened to a couple of past interviews.
I discovered that certain stories he tells are part of his standard repertoire, and they’re full of details that don’t vary from one telling to the next. It’s striking when you consider that some of the events he’s relating date back 80 years or more.
One of his oft-told stories is about what I call the ’250 Watt Business Lesson’.
When he bought his first grocery store in Burlington in the early 1940s, he found that a fresh coat of paint and higher wattage light bulbs were small investments that brought big returns in terms of attracting more customers. He stuck to the practice as he continued to buy property over the years.
I asked Pomerleau about his view of the impact of big box stores on smaller retailers and downtowns. “I’m doing better today than I ever did in my life,” he answered, ticking off some of the roughly two dozen shopping centers he owns, along with many downtown commercial properties. “If I thought I couldn’t compete with them, I’d get out.”
I also asked him if he thought it would be as easy today as it was in 1942 when he borrowed $3,000 (or today’s equivalent, $42,000) to start making his fortune. He’s convinced it can still be done.