This year marks the 60th anniversary of King’s Office Supply in downtown Lincolnton, one of the few storefronts to have remained unchanged for so long on East Main Street.
The store is also one of only a couple of local independent and family-owned businesses whose doors have been open for six decades.
Owner Bo King was only 5 years old and as tall as the display counter when his dad started the business, which was originally on Sycamore Street. Eventually, the store moved to Main Street. At the time, it included a gift shop, located across the street from where the business currently sits.
“It was an amazing little store,” King said.
His dad had a knack for retail, specifically in terms of knowing what people would want to buy.
“He was so far ahead of his time,” King said of his father.
People continue to tell him to this day that they still own an item they purchased from the shop.
King grew up working part-time at the store after school and on vacations. Following college, he worked in banking, but after being robbed at gunpoint twice, and upon learning that his dad was sick, he moved back to town in 1977 to run the business.
His father then died at the age of 62 in 1982.
Since then, King has been trying to adapt to changing times while also remaining true to the business values instilled in him by his dad.
Over the years, the store has seen some expansions, added product lines and fluctuating numbers of staff members. Currently, the business has five full-time employees and two part-time workers.
It is also no longer open on Saturdays.
“We had to have good family life,” Carol King said.
In 1984, King sold the gift shop. He also bought the adjoining building to the business, renovated and remodeled the facility and connected the two. The added space allowed for both a showroom and warehouse for office furniture, which remains King’s focus.
His wife, Carol, said he has become quite gifted at designing office layouts, in terms of furniture placement.
“He does beautiful offices,” she said.
Her passion, meanwhile, is the school-supply side of the business. A former teacher assistant at S. Ray Lowder Elementary School, Carol King was behind the addition of more teacher-friendly and “colorful” supplies to their merchandise list.
Most recently, they’ve begun to sell maintenance goods, such as cleaners and toilet paper, which has become the fastest-growing part of the business.
“We used to sell office products,” Bo King said. “Now, we sell products for the office.”
This has expanded their product line from just “office supplies” to literally anything used in an office space.
Bo King said that 5 percent of their business comes from the front door, while 95 percent is delivery. He keeps two delivery drivers on the road in his trade area, which includes Lincoln, Gaston and Catawba counties.
Competition from big-box retailers remains the biggest challenge for King’s Office Supply today, Bo King said.
“Things have been hard for local business,” Carol King said.
While people have the perception that chain stores are cheaper, she said that is not always the case. She recently conducted a price comparison with a local big-box retailer, and the item in question was actually less expensive at King’s.
“We definitely can be competitive,” Bo King said. “And we are.”
The couple is very locally-minded, with Carol King joking that Bo considers anything from outside of Lincolnton “imported.”
For instance, they try to sell furniture made in the United States or, even better, North Carolina.
This focus on local also translates to the level of service they offer their customers, from start to finish.
“When you buy from us, you get us with it,” Bo King said.
He commended his “great staff” for carrying out that notion, which he believes has allowed for his business’ longevity.
Often customers will come to them for advice on where in the area to get products they don’t even sell, such as car tires.
“We still have that personal touch,” Carol King said.
Another example is when customers will run into them in town and remember they need more of a certain order. The verbally-requested-placement is then followed through on, no questions asked.
Carol King has also made it her mission to help boost the neighborhood feel among businesses downtown, and she hopes to see more retailers move in.
Being as community-minded as they are, the couple is often disappointed when a local group is looking for fundraising opportunities and comes to them for help or donations, while they meanwhile purchase their supplies elsewhere.
“Pay attention to who gives door prizes,” Carol King said.
Bo noted that he hopes they would, instead, return the favor by shopping locally.
For now, neither Carol nor Bo, who was in the United States Army Reserve for 23 years, has plans to slow down.
“We don’t have time to talk about retirement,” Carol King joked.
This level of commitment and dedication to their customers has certainly been the key to success for King’s Office Supply.
“It’s not just four walls and a ceiling,” Bo King said of the store.
Teacher Appreciation Day
King’s Office Supply will be hosting its 10th-annual Teacher Appreciation Day this Wednesday. Teachers who stop by to shop will receive a free goody bag full of supplies and a coupon book for local retailers.
In past years, as many as 200 teachers have participated in the event. The Lincoln County Board of Education has also been invited to attend.
Teachers will additionally be able to sign up for a chance to win various door prizes.
Also as part of the 60-years-in-business celebrations, Carol King has invited local artists to decorate binders and clipboards, made of recyclable materials and donated by a woman-owned business, to be sold through a silent auction, with all funds raised going to the local soup kitchen.