After five decades in retail, including the past 20 years as the familiar face at Sears, Bob Grey is ready — finally — to call it a career.
The long-time owner of the Sears Hometown Store at 232 Valley Center Place has sold the business and will retire after the store closes up shop on Saturday, Dec. 30.
Grey says he sold the store to owners of the Port Angeles Sears Hometown Store.
“It’s hard (to leave) when you do anything for that long,” says Grey, considering his next big and presumably final career move.
“At 66 I never thought I’d still be moving 350-pound refrigerators.”
Grey, who like his wife Annemarie grew up on the East Coast, got his proverbial feet wet in retail as a grocery store clerk in his high school teen years.
He worked as a discounter for Walmart before district manager positions with companies such as Marshaell’s, HomeBase and Circuit City.
A New Hampshire native, Grey has worked on the West Coast since 1979.
One of the stores he worked with was a Circuit City was in San Jose, Calif., where he met a major appliance salesman who lived off of Dryke Road in Sequim, where Grey’s in-laws lived. The salesman would give him copies of the Sequim Gazette, Grey recalls, and he’d study up a bit so he’d have topics of conversation for his in-laws.
One day, Grey’s father-in-law noted a bit in the newspaper about Sears looking for an authorized dealer to open a branch in Sequim. Grey was looking to get himself and Annemarie back to Washington state to get closer to her folks, so what could be better than a new job in Sequim?
The first eight years the store was open, Annemarie recalls, she was there next to Bob keep the store running. She was able to transition to a part-time job after Bob made some key hires, but notes she’s been back in the store helping out much of the past three years.
Bob said he enjoyed much of his time at Sears — perhaps not lugging refrigerators, but rather making connections with customers.
“(I’ll miss) the people part of it, I guess. For the most part of my retail career, I met people from all over the country. When you’re in Sequim, you meet people from all over the country.”
Bob says he’s heard his share of stories of over the years. He recalled one where a customer brought in a breaker bar tool for replacement and noted it was under warranty … from the World War II era.
“There’s lots of them; because of the nature of our clientele and their age, you hear some great stories,” Bob says.
“I’ve enjoyed the people that have worked for us and the fact they have a lot of patience for someone that is a little bit crazy — I’m talking about myself. I’m a little nutty sometimes.”
Customer service — particularly in a small town, Bob says — is a priority at a place like Sears.
“In a small town you have to take good care (of customers),” he says. “We’ve tried real hard to do that. There are some things we can’t fix, but we tried to do the best we can.”
On Nov. 19, the Greys and Sears hit their 20-year work anniversary.
Bob and Annemarie raised two boys in Sequim, Matthew and Robert. Both graduated from Sequim High and live in Western Washington.
Bob and Annemarie don’t expect they’ll be moving from Sequim anytime soon.
While Annemarie will continue to work, Bob says he’s ready to embrace retirement. On the menu? Loads of football and perhaps some binge-watching of a TV show, play with the dog, bring his Annemarie lunch.
After that,” Bob says, “who knows?”
Annemarie says she hopes customers and well-wishers will visit on or before their last day (Dec. 30) at the store.
Reach the Sequim Sears Hometown Store at 360-681-3079.