Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Doug Tullock, November 19, 1999

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Tullock's grocery store

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Partial Transcript: This interview tonight is with Doug Tullock.

Segment Synopsis: Tullock starts talking about what led him to making his own grocery store in Etowah, Tennessee. Originally they had an antique store but they began selling groceries that they could get from the surrounding area, like vegetables and such. Soon they were making more money on groceries than antiques. Next, they found someone who would sell them other things they could not get from farms, like peanut butter and crackers. Tullock explains how he sold his farm just in case they couldn't make money, however Tullock never needed the money and it is still sitting in the bank today. Next, they began to expand to other buildings so they could have more space for storage. Tullock's grocery expanded to four states and many small towns. The secret, Tullock says, is making it feel like a supermarket but getting your goods through other channels, especially cheap overstock.

Keywords: Discount stores; Family businesses; Family companies; Groceries; Grocery stores; Rural towns; Small businesses; Small towns

Subjects: Communities; Etowah (Tenn.); Family-owned business enterprises.; Small business--Ownership

00:30:56 - Stories from the grocery business

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Partial Transcript: Anyway, uh, during all these years it wasn't, it wasn't easy.

Segment Synopsis: Tullock tells a story about how one of his trucks was overloaded with goods and while he was driving, the gears began to give out on a mountain. He was barely able to get the truck to stop. After pulling over, Tullock tried to get his wife a separate, safe ride down, but she refused and wanted be in the truck with him. He managed to shift to a lower gear and make it home safely. Tullock says that many places overloaded their trucks and many times they would have the wheels blow out on the road. Tullock also says that they were taken advantage of by many people on the road. People told them things were broken when they were not and vice versa.

Keywords: Deliveries; Family businesses; Family companies; Groceries; Grocery stores; Small businesses; Trucks

Subjects: Communities; Etowah (Tenn.); Family-owned business enterprises.; Small business--Ownership

00:50:14 - Origin of his business' name / Tullock's wife

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Partial Transcript: How did the name come about?

Segment Synopsis: Tullock explains the origin of the Bargain Barn's name and how it came about. Next, he talks about his wife's hand in the business and says she was responsible for helping grow the business. Tullock explains how his wife is incredibly intelligent and read all the time. When the coffee beans in Brazil were going bad she knew it was happening before anyone else. She also suggested buying up mayonnaise right before a shortage hit. She also suggested buying candy and selling it at the store, which was very popular.

Keywords: Family businesses; Family companies; Groceries; Grocery stores; Small businesses

Subjects: Etowah (Tenn.); Family-owned business enterprises.; Small business--Ownership

00:59:05 - The Tullock children

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Partial Transcript: Michael was a damn likable kid.

Segment Synopsis: Tullock talks about his three kids, who he praises for their kindness and charm. He said many people would come to their store to meet the family and sometimes would even bring their own kids so the Tullock children could play. He says that without the kids it would have been much harder to have the grocery store. He says it taught them how to work hard and how to make money. Tullock explains how his wife taught the kids all kinds of things. Tullock also talks about his son Michael, who is incredibly smart but dyslexic. He says his other kids are better people persons but Michael was the smartest.

Keywords: Children; Dyslexia; Family businesses; Family companies; Groceries; Grocery stores; Kids; Small businesses; Tennessee

Subjects: Etowah (Tenn.); Families.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Small business--Ownership

01:19:46 - Tullock's childhood / Meeting his wife

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Partial Transcript: Let's shift gears a little bit.

Segment Synopsis: Tullock says that when he was a little kid, his family made sure to provide him with anything he needed. He was the youngest of 9 kids and they all lived on a farm together. He would barter eggs from the farm in the morning to get school supplies and other goods for the family. Tullock also had to carry two 5 gallon buckets of slop for the pigs everyday which made him big and strong for a kid. Tullock also talks about killing and butchering the pigs and sending different cuts to friends and family. Tullock also describes the cold winters and what they would do to stay warm with only a fireplace. Tullock was also very good at baseball as a kid and was the captain in many sports that he played. Tullock talks about kids being more violent and getting into fights a lot, sometimes evolving into large rumbles. He also talks about painting houses as a kid, and he met his wife while painting her family's house. She had lost her dog and he helped return it to her.

Keywords: Farms; Rural towns; Small towns; Tennessee

Subjects: Childhood; Communities; Etowah (Tenn.); Family farms