The idea of leverage is like, if I had one store and I opened two; if you have two stores, how you could get to four? If you had four, could you get to eight? So I was just playing, just like scribbling on a napkin, and saying to you, “Is this pretty interesting?” But how do you get from one community, Columbus, if I’m going to get to a larger number of stores? I’d have to be in multiple cities.
Everybody knew that people didn’t have stores in multiple cities. And I said, “Well, I could try it.” Maybe I didn’t see it was leverage, but it was a way to get to scale, but I recognized — probably intuitively, couldn’t articulate it — we had a merchandise plan, we had a store design, we had a name of our store, we had a lot of things that were replicable. So if I could open a store, and then I could open another one just like it, and then you could open another one in another city just like it, calling it leverage, you have a replicable model that’s repeatable, and there’s also financial leverage and human scale.
So I recognize if I had four stores, then I’d probably have four assistant managers. Those four assistant managers have career opportunities to become store managers if I open more stores. If I’m picking a style for one store or a color of garment, why couldn’t I pick the same style for eight or ten stores? You’re just writing a bigger number. So what I tried to do is say, “What is what I’m doing? Could I copy it?” I really didn’t see it as leverage. It’s like McDonald’s building more golden arches. I could open more stores and I could try them in different cities and it kept expanding.
So Columbus and Dayton, then I said, “Well, Dayton is an hour away to drive and Milwaukee is an hour away to fly. I remember thinking, “What’s the difference between driving an hour to Dayton, or flying an hour to Dayton, or flying an hour to Milwaukee? It’s time and distance the same.” I got a map, and I said, “It’s far away, but the characteristics of Milwaukee, Columbus, Dayton are similar.” So you say, “Wow, that does work. You could actually open stores in Milwaukee. Then I went to an office supply store, got a map of the U.S., and got a compass and a wax crayon, and I drew concentric circles out 200, 300, 400 miles out of Columbus. And I said, “My God! Atlanta, New York!”