During the 1940’s, young men from Green Turtle Cay headed to the nation’s capital Nassau to seek employment. Two such lads included my Dad, John Wesley Lowe, and his cousin, Earl Anthony ‘Tony’ Roberts, grandsons of Thomas Wesley Curry and Lilla Carleton.
Dad landed a job at Maura Lumber Company and was promoted to manage the paint department under the leadership of World War II pilot John Maura. Dad built a successful career at Maura’s for nearly 20 years.
During the 1960’s, cousin Tony Roberts acquired a struggling furniture store in the Centreville district of New Providence. He actively recruited Dad with his retail expertise to manage this new operation. Family ties held strong. Dad left his successful career at Maura’s to help cousin Tony. It was a risky and bittersweet decision for Dad. He had built many strong relationships with coworkers and had an endless list of satisfied customers.
For the next 22 years, Dad devoted himself to transform Robert’s Furniture Company into one of the island’s leading furniture retail operations. His devotion led many to believe he was the actual owner of the company.
Dad expanded the existing showroom with adjacent properties. He oversaw the construction of an additional two story warehouse. During this building phase, Dad retrieved old bottles buried underground that were exposed during site preparations. Their origins remain a mystery, perhaps from the prohibition era. These bottles are proudly displayed today.
During my high school years, Dad gave me the opportunity to work in the store. He was careful not to show special treatment. I swept floors, emptied the trash, assembled furniture, organized the warehouse, cashiered, assisted customers, and answered phones. Dad taught that you do what it takes to get the job done.
Dad recognized I planned to pursue a college degree in Accounting. During my senior year of high school he challenged his business office employees to “show me the ropes.” Under their supervision, I reconciled the cash register drawer, prepared the daily deposit, posted sales orders, recorded payments to manual Accounts Receivable ledgers and typed customer statements. No computers existed.
While I greatly value those educational experiences, I was mesmerized with Dad’s leadership skills. Dad understood the value of building relationships with both employees and customers. Without a high school or college diploma, Dad was skilled in the art of sales and management. He listened. He gladly entertained “interruptions” from office duties to engage in conversations with customers. People visited the store just to say hello to Dad.
His reputation extended to the family islands as well. Satisfied customers expressed gratitude with gifts of their livelihood: lobster, conch and fish.
My sister recalls..
Dad loved to create the finest window displays with the latest furniture and artwork. He sold everything from bedroom suites, living and dining room sets, appliances, mattresses, artwork, lamps, linens, draperies and baby furniture. Expecting mothers would register for their baby shower. Dad always took the time with his customers.
Christmastime was especially memorable. We brightened the store with classic 1980’s foil tinsel decorations to signal the beginning of the Christmas season. Traditional promotional calendars were handed out to all patrons. In addition, Dad purchased boxes of assorted chocolate and French perfumes and colognes to present to valued customers. These gifts were wrapped in festive paper by Mom at night.
The staff at Robert’s Furniture adored Dad. Many of them built long careers. A few employees during my tenure included Maude Ferguson, Bloneva Moss, Oliver Hall, Paul Bethel, Mr. Turnquest and Mr. Gibson. Others employees over the two decades included cousin Noel Roberts, Freddie Albury, Billy Sands, and Rochelle Weech McCabe
During those 20 years at Robert’s Furniture, Dad formed lasting friendships with sales representatives from the United States. During vacations to Florida, salesmen such as Paul Gorin and Roland Brown treated our family to special meals and excursions. Mr. Brown recommended Dad consider the coastal town of Jupiter, Florida as a retirement home. With it’s lighthouse, beaches and waterways, Jupiter reminded Dad of his homeland.
In 1988 after almost 50 years of employment in Nassau, Dad retired and moved to Jupiter, Florida until his passing in 2013. His work ethic is forever instilled in me. I am blessed and challenged by his life that demonstrated it is better to give than to receive.