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Charlie Jones and his family have owned and operated the Sears in Harriman since 1991, but the tie to the store goes even further back.
Jones was a recent high school graduate 30 years ago when he started working at the store as a lowly stock boy.
“Actually, John Collins who works at Pattersons now, was the one that hired me,” he said. “Super guy.”
Jones worked his way up, his first full-time job in the tire center.
In 1991 Sears began the dealer program, and he got the opportunity to take the reins when others weren’t interested.
“It got down to me,” he remembered last week. “At the time, it wasn’t much risk. It was just something it seemed like we were looking for ... something to do ... and I think the Lord just kind of gave it to us.”
He added, “I just love what I’m doing.”
And it shows. In January, Harriman Sears was recognized as a premier dealer store. The prestigious honor is one that only 20 percent of Sears stores receive annually.
Jones’ transition from employee to owner seemed to be more of a transition for customers than it was for him.
He said people who knew him as the tire center guy needed some convincing he was the Charlie Jones identified as the owner on the store’s glass doors.
“One lady said, ‘You can’t own the place! You are the tire boy — you put my tires on last week!” Jones said. “I said, ‘That’s me.’”
Another woman told him she preferred dealing with store management. She refused to believe someone so young was the store manager.
“I had to show her my driver’s license,” Jones laughed.
Now 49, Jones and his family have made Harriman Sears a true family business. Wife Kim, sons Cole and Corey, father Charlie Jones II, uncle Joe Jones and niece Leah Stedam are among the Jones relatives who have or are working at the store. Sister-in-law Kay Rayburn is the bookkeeper.
Employees include Aaron Payne, Rebecca Byers and June Gooch, the latter of whom has worked on and off for Sears since the 1960s, when the store was downtown.
Though the Harriman Sears operation has changed little over the years, Jones is proud of the store’s growth.
Once little more than a catalog store, the showroom at Harriman Sears has grown from around 3,000 square feet to close to 8,000 square feet.
Jones also is proud of the services his store offers, including appliances, which he calls the business’ bread and butter, and the repair services.
For example, a customer who buys a lawnmower with a two-year warranty can expect a technician to go to their home to make repairs.
Harriman Sears is at 236 S. Roane St.
The store marked Jones’ 30-year affiliation with Sears with a grand reopening celebration Friday morning.