Richard A. Coulter, who has been written about here on MNB from time to time, passed away yesterday. He was 84 and the cause was cardiac arrest - which is ironic, since to the people who loved him, his was an enormous heart that never stopped enveloping everyone he touched.
- KC's View:
I’ve mentioned Richard here on MNB because, when I was just a young teenager, he hired me to work in his clothing store - County Boys’ and Men’s Shop, in the suburbs of New York City.
At County Boys’, Richard was an indomitable presence, outfitting young men and their fathers in suits and sports jackets, jeans and khakis, shirts and sweaters - always focusing on high levels of customer service and affordable prices that kept generations of families returning. Richard also employed many of his customers’ kids, teaching them about business as well as larger lessons about life. I was one of them, and I worked at the stores to pay my way through high school and part of college, and then on weekends when I was a newspaper reporter making under $7,000 a year and needed a second job to pay the bills. He taught me much about business, and much about life.
There is a lot to say about Richard, and I haven’t processed it all yet. I’ve been asked to do a eulogy at his funeral - this was Richard’s request, with instructions that I am to make it funny - but the memorial service won’t be for a while, and so I have time.
I do want to say one thing here that speaks volumes about Richard (and his wife, Linda). The County Boys’ and Men’s story did not end well; the stores were not able to keep up with changing customer preferences, and eventually they went bankrupt. There were creditors to whom money was owned, and Richard and Linda made sure that every debt was paid, in full. They even moved to Chicago to run a camp outfitting business, which allowed them to not just pay off all their debts, but also enjoy what ended up being a great adventure.
In the early days on MNB, when FMI had its annual convention in Chicago, I used to host little parties at a place called Bin 36, just mentioning it on the site and hoping people would show up. Somehow, they always did … and so did the Coulters, who enjoyed seeing what that young kid who used to work in their stores had turned into. I remember that Neil and Jane Golub used to come as well, and the Coulters enjoying hanging out with them, sharing retail war stories. And it gave me enormous pleasure to see the confluence of people from different parts of my life.
I saw Richard just a few weeks ago, before Christmas. While he was physically challenged, his spirt was there. And his smile - infectious and boisterous - remained, undimmed. That’s how I’ll remember him.