Haverhill, Massachusetts: June 1854. At Rowland Hussey's Wholesale and Retail Dry Goods Store business was bad. No wonder!
Not many months before, Rowland had deliberately opened his establishment in a dead section of town. He had said commercial development in Haverhill was headed his way, said his bargain prices and quality merchandise would lure folks from the main shopping area.
It didn't happen. And now Rowland was stuck with a full dry goods stock and fewer than ever customers.
Something dramatic was in order. It occurred to the young businessman that he would organize a parade for the Fourth of July, a parade leading from the cluster of successful shops across town to his store.
He would hire an eight-piece marching band; he woudl get an experienced orator to make a patriotic speech. Hopefully the pomp and ceremony would attract attention to Rowland's failing business.
July 4 rolled around - and it was a scorcher!
A handful of Haverhill's citizens joined the parade behind Rowland's marching band, most of the others staying in the shade of their front porches, sipping cool cider.
When the band reached Rowland's dry goods store, it stopped to serenade the hundred or so onlookers.
Rowland tugged at his collar.
His scheduled speaker, a fellow from Boston named Wilkins, was nowhere in sight. It was about one o'clock now, and those assembled had been promised a Fourth of July address.
Rowland had no choice. He searched his mind, remembered a speech he made as a small boy in school. The title was "George Washington, Soldier and Statesman." That seemed appropriate enough for the Fourth of July, so Rowland stepped up, stood in front of the door of his little dry goods store and made his speech.
Afterward, his holiday audience applauded politely, dispersed.
The parade-as-promotion idea had been inspired, if somewhat misfired. And apparently whatever business Rowland gained as a result was insufficient to save his dying establishment.
It was all downhill from there. A few months later, there was a little sign in the window of Rowland's dry goods store: "Closed."
Rowland went into real estate after his Haverhill dry goods business failed. He might have stayed in real estate, too, had it not been for a friend he'd made, back in July of 1854.
Remember that Fourth of July parade and the speech Rowland made? There had been a certain gentleman in the crowd that day, a businessman named Caleb Hunking. Mr. Hunking had been sufficiently impressed with Rowland's address to remember him when the chips were down.
It was Mr. Hunking, then, who gave Rowland the money to open another store in another city, New York City. And that dry goods business, on Sixth Avenue just south of Fourteenth Street, prospered.
One hundred and twenty years have passed and Rowland's store prospers still. Those who carry on, now that Rowland is gone, have perpetuated their founder's tradition of an annual promotional parade.
Not on July 4, of course. Rowland learned quickly that during the summer, too many folks stayed in the shade.
So next Thanksgiving - before the parade passes by - you'll remember Rowland's first parade in the torrid July of 1854, and that first dry goods store. The owner and proprieter was Rowland Hussey... Macy.
- Story from More of Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story, Copyright 1980