Archive for Sunday, October 3, 2010

Weaver’s president key to store’s balance between old-fashioned charm, modern trends

October 3, 2010


Joe Flannery

Joe Flannery

For generations, Weaver’s has been where Lawrence’s high school girls shop for prom dresses, young couples register for weddings and parents take their children to sit on Santa’s lap.

With its pneumatic tubes, makeup counters and holiday gift wrapping, Weaver’s oozes with the nostalgia that comes from being one of the country’s oldest department stores. The clothes, however, are thoroughly modern.

Key to finding the balance between keeping up with fashion trends and holding onto the charm of a long-ago era is the store’s president, Joe Flannery.

Flannery started work at Weaver’s when it still had millinery and piece goods departments. He has helped sell bell bottoms, leisure suits and Cabbage Patch Kids. Today he is talking about next season’s skinny jeans.

“I just think Joe deserves a lot of credit for running an independent department store. There aren’t many left in the world. And, I think it takes a tremendous amount of knowledge and skill to make it succeed,” said Earl Reineman, Weaver’s vice president.

Flannery, who is just the fifth man to lead Weaver’s in its 153-year history, is among the inaugural inductees into the Lawrence Business Hall of Fame.

“To be part of the inaugural class is probably one of the nicest things that has ever happened to me,” Flannery said. “It is a great honor and something that I never expected.”

Flannery’s first job at Weaver’s was in the store’s record department. He was in high school and selling the Beatles, Rolling Stones and Moody Blues.

“Every month there was great new music coming out,” he said. “It gave me a good sense of how fun retail could be.”

In 1962, Flannery’s father, Larry Flannery Sr., was among a group of Kansas investors who purchased Weaver’s from A.B. Weaver, whose family had owned the business since 1886. Even though his father was the head of store, it wasn’t predetermined that Flannery would enter the family business.

During his last semester of college at Kansas University, Flannery went out to lunch with his father, who asked him whether he wanted to work at the store. Flannery told him he would think about it.

“And I did. I said I would do it for two years to see how he liked me and I liked him,” Flannery said.

Flannery ended up staying for 38 years.

In 1987, while on a buying trip to New York City, Larry Flannery died from a heart attack. Shortly afterward Joe Flannery was named president. A little more than a year and half later, Flannery hired Reineman as vice president. Reineman had been working as a senior merchandising manager for J.C. Penney.

Flannery said his business model focuses on three P’s: people, product and price.

“My dad taught me what was really important in business and that is the relationships you form with your staff and customers,” he said.

While Flannery is the face of Weaver’s, his work often takes him to New York City, Minneapolis and Dallas. Weaver’s buying group allows the store to be competitive and offer the same brands as Dillard’s, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue.

“We have often said that without our connection in New York, we probably wouldn’t exist,” Flannery said. “We have the same styles as in many national department stores. And without that affiliation, I don’t think we could keep up.”

Flannery studies the latest fashion weeklies to keep the downtown department store relevant in a world that is changing.

In Flannery’s early years, downtown was still home to grocery stores, car dealerships and banks. In 1980, Weaver’s existence seemed threatened as other major businesses abandoned downtown and talk circulated of building a suburban mall on South Iowa Street.

“It would have been very easy for the Flannery family to throw a fit over the prospect of a cornfield mall,” former Lawrence Mayor Sue Hack said. Instead, Flannery expressed the store’s concerns in a civil manner, which Hack noted can be a rarity.

“A survivor, but doing it with such class and grace to me exemplifies Joe and his family,” she said.

Flannery and Sue Hack go back decades to when Flannery was her husband Al’s pledge son in Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. They have been close friends ever since going to football games and raising their children together.

“I think he is very grounded. He is probably one of the kindest, most thoughtful people that I know,” Hack said.

Flannery has been a leader outside of Weaver’s as well. He is the chair of the Lawrence Memorial Hospital board. Along with bringing the perspective of a lifelong Lawrence resident and a successful business owner, Flannery has helped push forward the major expansion of the hospital, LMH CEO and President Gene Meyer said.

“Joe is very deliberate in speech and action,” Meyer said. “But at the same time … he is very quick to get a decision and the input it takes to make a decision.”

Despite nearing retirement age, Flannery doesn’t envision quitting anytime soon.

“I really enjoy this business. And, that is why when people ask me about retirement, I say it’s not even on my mind.”


mr_right_wing 7 years, 8 months ago

But they're not even on the website.... Are they at least on Twitter and/or Facebook? They're doomed.....

onceinawhile 7 years, 8 months ago

Actually they have a website, Twitter, AND Facebook. But thanks for playing.


Kookamooka 7 years, 8 months ago

No they aren't. They are the only place in town where sorority girls can get Clinique products. They'll be around for a loooooong time.

whats_going_on 7 years, 8 months ago

HEY. Be nice. I'm most certainly not a sorority girls but do enjoy me some Clinique products. >_>

mr_right_wing 7 years, 8 months ago

No....most sorority girls actually take pride in their country. That's deffinately not you.

Tammy Copp-Barta 7 years, 8 months ago

Who says they aren't on the web???

They are also on facebook, don't know about twitter as I don't use it.

I had the fortune of meeting Mr. Weaver and working for Larry and Joe at Weaver's for about 12 years. He and Earl are the nicest guys and will always go out of their way to talk to me when they see me out somewhere. I still shop their on occasion, especially in their housewares department.

Congratuations, Joe! Well deserved!!

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 8 months ago

Weaver's is great for women's clothes and beauty products.

Weaver's is not great for menswear. Unless you want a golf shirt with a Jayhawk on it and pleated khakis, Weaver's is not the place to get menswear.

whats_going_on 7 years, 8 months ago

It is, if you're looking for more formal wear. I always find something nice for my dad or brother for Christmas. They have suits, sweaters, ties, cologne, etc etc. If you want a Budweiser tee and overalls, go to JCP.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 8 months ago

True. I have found some nice sportcoats at Weaver's. I just wish they would carry some more "modern" clothing. Hugo Boss, Kenneth Cole, and some european brands (Uomi) that have a bit more modern and stylish cut.

rbwaa 7 years, 8 months ago

I think it is admirable for a store to succeed for 153 years - congratulations!

Richard Heckler 7 years, 8 months ago

Of course Weavers is online:

WE buy many housewares from Weavers. The staff is second is none. Great place for gifts.

Weavers is the place for Menswear for those who enjoy that style. In fact it seems busy enough.

Weavers shoe department is decent as well.

There are a lot of downtown merchants online including Free State Brewery.

verity 7 years, 8 months ago

I love Weaver's. Great products, great salespeople and great sales. The salespeople always offer help, but don't follow you around and bug you. For being such a small store they really have a good choice of products. Now if they would just carry Lands' End.

It's surprising that an independent store has lasted this long---shows the great leadership they have.

The best place in town for shoes, housewares, make-up and underwear.

Bob Forer 7 years, 8 months ago

I miss the old guy in the men's department who passed away a few years ago. he was super.

Tammy Copp-Barta 7 years, 8 months ago

That was Roger Quakenbush. His wife, Doris, worked in the Lancome and Clinique department. Roger owned the store that is the men's store today. I believe Larry Flannery bought him out in the 60's or 70's which is how the acquired the men's where store. Can't remember what the name of Roger's store was, though.

riverdrifter 7 years, 8 months ago

It didn't get any better than Roger. I can't remember the name of his store either.

Bob Forer 7 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for reminding me of his name. A true gentleman, without the stuffiness that sometimes accompanies "gentlemanliness."

msfefe43 7 years, 8 months ago

Roger owned Carl's Men Store before he sold it .

Tammy Copp-Barta 7 years, 8 months ago

Thanks! I couldn't for the life of me remember the name of the store!

Frank A Janzen 7 years, 8 months ago

I don't go to Weaver's so much anymore, but when I did, Joe and the other staff always remembered my name. They are a great bunch. I hope they continue to serve downtown Lawrence for many years to come. Weaver's is a great anchor to downtown.

Boomermf 7 years, 8 months ago

Congrats to Joe, I have known Joe for 43 years, way back from Lawrence High School. Weavers is wonderful, and I have grown up chopping there. My mom worked there for years, knew the Flannery's and Joe. Weaver's is full of great memories for those of us that grew up in Lawrence. It is truly an ICON.

4everahawk 7 years, 8 months ago

Weavers has such a wonderful ambience about it...used to love walking up to the upper levels on those narrow stairs and the tube (although a bit slow) was always so fun. Hope they never go too modern. It is a rare jewel in Lawrence.

ColoRB 7 years, 8 months ago

I worked at Weaver's all through college and it is one of my favorite memories of Lawrence. A wonderful place with great people!

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