Sam Walton left the Army at the end of the Second World War, he considered
purchasing a Federated department store franchise in St. Louis with Tom Bates,
a former college roommate. Sam’s wife, Helen, was opposed to living in a large
city like St. Louis, and preferred to live in a smaller place like her
hometown, Claremore, Oklahoma.
Sam wanted to keep his bride happy, he went to Butler Brothers, the
Chicago-based retailer that owned Federated Department Stores, as well as a
chain of franchised variety stores, Ben Franklin. After requesting a franchise
in a small town, Butler Brothers told him that the Ben Franklin franchise in
Newport, Arkansas, was available.
purchased that store—the
name, the fixtures, the merchandise—from
St. Louis native George Scharlott and his wife Katherine. Mr. Scharlott was
disappointed with the sales at the store, and wanted to leave the small town
and head back to St. Louis. Upon purchasing the store, Sam also signed a
five-year lease on the building, which was owned by a local department store
owner, P. K. Holmes, Sr.
diligently served his Newport customers and grew annual sales at his store from
$72,000 to $250,000 over the course of his five years in the town. It became the top-performing Ben
Franklin franchise in the region in both sales and profit, despite being in a
At the end of the five
years, though, P. K. Holmes decided not to renew the lease. He did offer to
purchase the Ben Franklin franchise (including merchandise and fixtures) at a
fair price for his son Douglas to begin his retail career. Sam Walton and his
family left Newport and settled in northwest Arkansas. He opened another Ben
Franklin franchise, Walton’s 5 &10, on the square in Bentonville on March
The Holmes family
graciously donated this Bill of Sale from that Newport Ben Franklin store to
The Walmart Museum. We are proud to now display the document that marks the
beginning of Sam Walton’s career in retail entrepreneurship.