By Dawn Kessinger
LIMA — Clyde Evans knew nothing about the grocery business when he bought his first grocery store, Day and Nite Market, on South Main Street in Lima.
“He didn’t know a thing. When I was 3 or 4, my mom, Marjorie, worked at a grocery store called Lowry’s Market in Cridersville. We also lived in Cridersville. Having one car, Dad would go into Lowry’s (when he picked Marjorie up from work) and start chatting with the owner, Bob Lowry, and the two became friends. That’s how Dad got orientated into the grocery business, but he didn’t know anything about it,” said Dave Evans, who is Clyde Evans’ son.
When Clyde Evans expressed an interest in starting his own business, Bob Lowry suggested that he open a grocery store. There was a store up for sale in Lima, and Clyde Evans bought the store in March of 1953.
“Day and Nite Market was where the Y is now, 306 S. Main. I remember because I was too little to work there, but there was one aisle up, and one aisle back – and that’s all it was. We had a meat department in the back. Mom worked there, and she knew a lot more than he did about the grocery business, so she pretty much ran it,” Evans said.
“There was a furniture store next door. They knocked down the wall and doubled the size of the store. There was no air conditioner and there was a basement to unload the trucks. It was dark and dingy, and that’s where I grew up,” he said.
Evans remembers being 7 years old when he had his first job at the family grocery.
“Back then eggs came in bulk, so my older sister Suzy and I would put them in dozen cartons. We would do that in the morning and then they’d give us money to go to a show,” Evans said.
As he grew older, Evans worked a variety of jobs at Day and Nite Market.
“The first one was just sacking. I used to stand on a Pepsi crate because I couldn’t reach. I started sacking and carrying out on the weekends when I was in elementary school. It kept me out of trouble, that’s for sure,” he said.
Through his growing-up years, Evans also ran register, stocked and just about every aspect of work he could do in the grocery. After high school, he attended Ohio Northern University but he wasn’t certain what he wanted to do.
“I thought, ‘I’ll just do this (work at the family grocery) for now.’ So, they threw me in at the Vine
and Elizabeth store (Super Dollar), which opened in 1959, and it just became addictive. The retail business is not for everybody – you either love it or you hate it,” Evans said.
“What was neat about it was that back then, the independent (businesses) could make it, and we actually grew, especially in the ‘80s,” he said.
Evans started running the Super Dollar store at Vine and Elizabeth in 1968 and continued to operate it for eight years.
“Dad put me there because he thought I could keep up. It was a natural fit for me to step up,” Evans said.
In 1975, Clyde Evans put Dave in charge of advertising. Shortly after, in 1976, Dave decided the three different stores Clyde Evans owned: Day and Nite, Super Dollar and The Grocery Shoppe, needed to change their names to Clyde Evans Markets.
The best aspect of working with his dad and building a family business, Evans said, was having freedoms he wouldn’t have had working for a company.
“We had the fireworks, Easter egg hunts and food shows – we would have something going every month. Being that we were local, it was more than some (unknown) company sponsoring something. It was something we actually went to and something we had fun doing,” Evans said.
“Millions and millions of dollars were given away for community events. A half million went for the St. Jude telethons. We were using the Civic Center before it was popular. I’d work with Ric Bratton and we’d bring in entertainment. All of these things we wouldn’t have been able to do if we hadn’t been family-oriented. We always just wanted to make Lima a better place – a more fun place,” he said.
Evans opened his first 99-cent store about a year and a half ago at 1420 N. Cole St., which is in the old County Market store. He opened a second location at 2815 Elida Rd. on April 11.
“When we go to these shows in Chicago five or six times a year and we see all these products we can buy, such as sunglasses, women’s scarves and jewelry, it’s like, ‘Wow.’ There are all these vendors all over the country that you don’t know about that specialize in some product. They do close-outs and buys like that,” Evans said.
Evans’s two 99-cent stores are not part of any national chain.
“We have flexibility in our stores – it doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter. In our North Cole Street store, we’re concentrating more on food, while at the Elida Road store we’re concentrating on crafts. Each store can be what the customers want, and that can vary at different locations,” he said.
“The biggest difference is we’re all 99, where other dollar stores offer 20 percent of their product at a dollar and everything else costs more. We have everything at 99 cents. Everybody who’s come in here can’t believe what all we have for 99 cents,” Evans said.