Truman Cole was one of a kind

Monday, February 17, 2003

When I met Truman Cole last August, he said he'd be around Copi-Rite for as long as he could breathe.

And he was.

Cole, the 82-year-old president of Copi-Rite, died on Feb. 9.

Cole had many great capacities: a capacity for hard work, 15-hour days and high-energy professionalism; a capacity to sell, starting back in the early days when people thought copy machines would never catch on; a capacity to put the perfect crew around him, from secretary to salesmen with the keen understanding that the key to a good company is good people.

In a business era of carbon paper, Cole was one of Cape Girardeau's first copy machine dealers. He opened Copi-Rite in 1967, and it was his life.

He started the business trying to convince skeptical business owners that copy machines were the wave of the future. They said copy machines were too expensive and would never replace the much cheaper carbon paper.

But Cole turned them, as he put it during the August interview, "from doubting Thomases into buyers."

During the 35 years that he ran Copi-Rite, as in any business, there were highs and lows. Those who knew Cole, an avid pilot, knew that there were more highs.

He grew the business long before anybody would have put it that way. He called it expanding, and then he called it too much expansion. He grew from one location in Cape Girardeau to 13 stores in several states and then later -- after he realized he was working himself silly -- back down to one.

Truman persevered.

"I've considered closing it up a number of times, in part because of my age," he once said. "But it's become like a child to me and I've stayed with it."

His contemporaries in the copy machine business should realize Cole was a local pioneer. Who does business today without a copy machine? It's not like he invented it, but Truman knew enough about them so that people may have thought he did.

He remembered being curious about the "strange gadget" when he first saw the copy machine.

"That doggone thing was magic," he said. "It sounds strange now, but back then it was something. People were in awe of this machine."

Truman had a field day selling those machines. He said most people wanted to know if it would copy money.

Talk the last few years has turned to who would take over the company.

"I didn't want to run it, but I didn't want to shut it down," he said.

He has left the company in good hands.

Jeff Roosman joined the company in 1999, the hand-picked successor.

"I feel like the company will be in good hands," Cole said. "He'll bring a long-term commitment to the company, which is something I wanted."

Roosman had a wonderful opportunity to work with Cole. To learn from a man who began working in an industry, just as it became an industry. How many of us can say that?

Roosman will surely be a deft hand at running the company. But replacing Truman Cole is impossible.

"I'd be real hard to copy," he said in August.

He was making a pun, but his words rang true.

Renaissance at Renaissance

Renaissance is in the process of expanding the store downtown on the corner of Broadway and Main Street.

Sherry Yaeger tells me they are going to be using three more storefronts all the way to the alley on Broadway, directly across from the city Convention and Visitor's Bureau.

The stores will all be connected by the original archways that have been covered up, as Yaeger estimates it, for more than 50 years.

"We are trying to bring it back as close to how it originally was," she said. "We are looking for information from anyone who remembers anything about it."

The new areas will offer an extension of their focus on home and garden decor with more room for more gifts for customers to choose from. There will be a room devoted to garden accents and an expanded bath and body room which will include Mistral French Bath and Body Products and the Burt's Bees line of products.

The process should take a couple of months, Yaeger said.

Red all over

La Croix Village had its grand opening last Friday. One of the final pieces of the puzzle for the shopping center also made its debut last week. Under the Sun Tanning Co., which is owned by Daniel and Jessica Richardson, opened Feb. 7.

The tanning salon has six beds with room for expansion.

"This is our first business," Jessica Richardson, who was a stay-at-home mother. Her husband works for Oakley Sunglasses as its Missouri traveling salesman.

Trish Lafoe, La Croix Village's developer, asked the couple if they wanted to open a tanning salon there, and they took her up on it.

"I've always wanted to open a tanning salon," she said. "I love to tan and know a lot about it."

Cape's getting cut

Cape Cuts, the new place at 1930 Broadway, is not a beauty salon.

"Don't call it that," said Millie Yates, who opened the shop last week. "I mostly do men's hair. What I do is similar to Master Cuts or Great Clips."

Yates is from Tennessee, as her customers will know immediately from her wonderfully Southern accent. She's been in the Cape Girardeau area for several years now and has worked as a hairstylist for longer than she wanted to say.

She opened a week ago and had several walk-ins.

"Today has not been good," she said last Thursday. "I was really excited about it until today."

She shouldn't get discouraged. Everyone eventually needs a haircut.

A woman thing

Hecht's Women is changing hands and changing names. Susan Dean, who has been the manager for six years, took over the business with a couple of silent partners on Feb. 1.

It is now the Woman's Store at 113 N. Main. The store still offers upscale women's clothing for plus-sized ladies. (If I were a lady, I'd be plus-sized.) It won't be exactly the same business, though.

Dean said that the new business will have more sportswear as well as clothes for younger people.

"We didn't always have that," she said.

The store will also carry prom dresses for "larger-size girls," she said, as well as accessories such as bags and jewelry.

Dean's sister, Connie Brown, will also still work at the store.

Tanning revisited

There's another tanning salon that has opened in Cape Girardeau. Endless Summer Tan opened recently at 1420 N. Kingshighway. Endless Summer Tan, owned by real estate agent Marcia Schlueter, subscribes to the "smart tan," approach, Schlueter said.

"Moderation and sunburn prevention are the two major tenets of smart tanning," she said.

Endless Summer Tan is a member of the International Smart Tan Network, the trade association of indoor tanning salons, Schlueter said. That means they formally and comprehensively train employees in the responsible administration of ultraviolet light for cosmetic tanning, teach clients ways to avoid sunburn and overexposure and understand and follow the exposure schedules on the salon's tanning equipment.

"Basically, we take a proactive role in a client's tanning experience," she said, "as opposed to letting the client determine how many minutes they want to tan each time and how often they want to tan."

Schlueter said they won't recommend that people tan every day because it's not good for your skin. She said that not everyone can tan. (That's me!)

"There is a growing number of people who like to tan, and we'll help them do it the smart, responsible way," she said.

Scott Moyers is the business editor for the Southeast Missourian. Send your comments, business news, information or questions to Biz Buzz, 301 Broadway, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63702-0699, e-mail smoyers@semissourian.com or call 335-6611, extension 137.

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