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Marking a milestone at Sears
Gary Cooler began his career with retailer in 1971
Gary Cooler is shown inside his Sears retail store at the Statesboro Mall, next to Vandy's. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

      Gary Cooler began his career with Sears while in high school in 1971, delivering merchandise for its catalogue store in Beaufort, S.C. Cooler is celebrating his 42nd year with the company, and the 20th anniversary of the Statesboro Sears Hometown Store which he opened in 1993.
      "I've been with Sears since the 1970s, so I've seen a lot of changes in the retail industry over the years," Cooler said. "I was one of the initial owners who converted my catalog store into a Sears Hometown Store, and - though it was a scary transition at first - we wouldn't have the success we do today if it weren't for the local community. The people of Statesboro truly keep our business going. We are forever grateful for their support and are excited to honor them as we celebrate two decades of the Hometown feel."
      Cooler actually moved his family to Statesboro in 1991 buying the Statesboro Sears catalogue store. When told in 1993 that Sears would be closing all of its catalogue stores, Cooler and his family were shocked having moved to Statesboro just two years prior.
      "Luckily, Sears launched a dealer program four months later through its new Sears Hometown format, and our store was picked as one of a select handful that would be transitioned into a Sears Hometown store," he said.
Cooler's store has done amazingly well consistently posting the highest gross sales of any Hometown Store in the southeastern United States.
      "I believe in delivering the highest level of customer service possible, and that is what we try to do day in and day out," he said. "We have wonderful employees, and I think we are in a great location. We really try and work extremely hard for our customers every single day."
      Statesboro resident Matt Mills has been a loyal customer of Cooler's both in Beaufort and in Statesboro.
      "This is such a friendly store," Mills said. "It is family owned and operated, and you really get that feeling when you are here. I was Gary's customer in Beaufort, and I continued being his customer when he moved here. They just give wonderful customer service and have great products."
      Nationwide, there will be a "throwback" promotional celebration this weekend, marking two decades since Sears, Roebuck and Co. did a final run of its legendary "Big Book" catalog, closing its catalog stores and shifting to a new retail model of locally owned and operated dealer stores. There are 900 stores nationwide that came about as a result of that move.
      Bruce Johnson, president and CEO of Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, Inc., said, "Looking back over the past 20 years, we're celebrating tremendous progress. Everyone has memories of ordering from the eagerly awaited ‘Big Book' for delivery to a local catalog store or their home. The ‘Big Book' is gone. But as much as things change, we continue to grow by providing top-notch customer service, and we still provide incredible values."
      To commemorate the anniversary, the store will feature current versions of some popular items advertised in 1993, with the same or lower pricing than 1993 pricing.
      "One of the Super Buys advertised in 1993 was a 3-cubic-foot capacity, 11-cycle Kenmore washer for $429.99," said Will Powell, the company's chief operating officer. "During the throwback weekend, we'll offer a comparable Kenmore washer but it will have larger capacity, more cycles, an energy star rating and it will be priced under $400."
      Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, Inc. (NASDAQ: SHOS) is a national retailer primarily focused on selling home appliances, lawn and garden equipment, tools and hardware. As of May 4, 2013, Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores, Inc., and its dealers and franchisees operated 1,253 stores across all 50 states as well as in Puerto Rico and Bermuda.


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