Longtime five-and-dime owner staying busy
For someone who’s retired, Terry Smith seems awfully busy.
The longtime owner of Terry’s 5 and 10 has cut his paying workload from an estimated 90 hours a week to about 10, but that’s not all the 69-year-old does. On this day, for instance, he’s raking leaves from the front of his home on Walnut Street.
“It’s just wonderful. I get to do honey-do’s, daughter-do’s, neighbor-do’s, community do’s – whatever needs to be done, I just get in there and get involved. Except (with) no roof,” said Smith, who still does some of the work he used to do at his five-and-dime store out of the back of his house.
He replaces batteries in watches, medical devices and other items, makes keys and tackles the occasional odd job.
“People call me and say, ‘Hey Terry, I’ve got a blender and I can’t get it fixed. Can you look at it for me or something?’ So I’ll look at that and some other things like that,” said Smith.
Terry’s 5 and 10 closed on July 31, 2015, and Smith said aside from missing his employees and customers, he doesn’t regret his decision to close the Versailles institution.
“I put in almost 40 years and in 40 years you get an opportunity to go to sleep every night and think, ‘How will I shut this down?’ Because with the way the retail business is today, there’s no way to sell it and there was no way to to continue it. So I didn’t miss it one bit when I was done,” Smith said.
As he told The Sun in 2015 while he prepared to close up shop, he was tired of increased minimum orders, increased rent and increased workers compensation costs. The stress, he said, was enormous.
“It got to be where if you didn’t buy $50,000 a year from a particular company, it was plus 12 percent. There’s no way to make it,” Smith said.
Smith said he knows people thought he’d miss the place where he spent nearly all of his adult life and some of his childhood.
“No, that hasn’t been the case. And maybe that came from the attitude of my father and I asked him when we were downtown, where the library’s built over now, I said, ‘How can you possibly leave after 22 years and not miss it?’ And Daddy goes, ‘ … Progress is your most most important product.’ And he said, ‘If you can’t change, you’re gonna die.’ I learned to do that,” Smith said.
That doesn’t mean other folks don’t miss his old-fashioned store, known for carrying everything from fresh-baked cashews and hard candy to toys and hamsters.
“My wife won’t go to Kroger on Thursdays (formerly Senior Day) because everywhere I go, they say that. It’s a great tribute,” Smith said.
He credits the Voices of Versailles Facebook page for helping to remind folks of his new operation, the aptly titled “Terry’s Keys and Watch Batteries.” He also said he’s never tempted to remind former customers who tell him they miss his store, “Well, if you’d come in more often, it might still be around.”
“ … I never felt that way, because I was there the entire time and I know they came,” Smith said.
He still inflates balloons for birthdays and other occasions, and only charges $5 to replace a watch battery and $3 to make a copy of a key – the latter of which comes with a guarantee unlikely to be found anywhere else.
“When I make a key, that means I come to your house if it doesn’t work …” Smith said. “I’m just doing wonderful and I love to do the watches, the keys. The most important thing is, just give me a call, just call, just come by, pull into the driveway, ring the doorbell at the back door. I’m here. It’s better now than it was at the store, because I can get right on it.”
Asked one final time if he was absolutely sure he didn’t feel the loss of the store where he’d worked since childhood, Smith noted that he finally has time to spend with his children and grandchildren. “I loved everything I did. And you don’t want to get religiousy. But that’s why you live the way you do, because there’s a time for this and a time for that, and the time is up,” Smith said. “How can anybody describe going to work every day for that many years and loving every minute of it?
“And I don’t miss it now. But I get to do this -- I do some watches and I get to see some people. So it makes me happy.”