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George Shirey: ‘I’d Rather Be Here Than Anyplace Else’

Monday, June 29, 2020 @ 12:06 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

True ValueCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – George Shirey took his time before he decided to reopen his Clarion True Value store on Main Street on a limited basis.

“In the first place, I’ll open as soon as they are able to develop a cure, and it may not be that far away,” Shirey said on Wednesday morning (June 24) in an interview with exploreClarion.com. “The risk and benefit ratio for me isn’t there.

“Sure, I can make a little bit more money, but, what can I do with it?  If I get sick … My nephew was, and he’s an MD, and he was never sick in his life. He was two months getting over it, and he still isn‘t completely over it after two months….It’s such a vicious thing and if you catch it, and you’re the right person, it’s just not worth it. Why risk it? There’s no benefit to me.”

George, a long-time Main Street merchant, will see customers if they call for a reservation or rattle his front door when he is there, and he will come to open the door.

He has one other requirement:  You must wear a mask to get inside.

“I’m 81, so I’m vulnerable. I’m here from 9 a.m. to noon.”

Shirey realizes that some people are not comfortable, but he knows it is important to him.

“There was really something this morning – one of my very best customers came up to the door, and I put my hand over my face to motion him to wear a mask, and he just walked away. I opened the door and hollered at him that I would open it up, but he has to wear a mask. He said ‘never mind, when they make me wear a mask, they’re going to take my guns next.'”

“It does take the fun out of it for someone who has to wear a mask. I have friends who refuse to wear a mask.  Some of those are single and don’t have to worry about bringing it home to (their) wife. That’s a consideration. I know Clarion is a low probability, but the day before yesterday, the hospital had three new cases.”

George loves talking with people, and he misses that.

“If I didn’t like what I did and the people that came into the store, I wouldn’t do it. I could have retired when I was 65 or sooner.  That’s my motivation.  The reason I’m here is that I’d rather be here than anyplace else.”

He spent a lot of his days when the store was completely closed catching up on things he always meant to finish.

“Quite frankly, I’m running out of things to do.  All of those things you put off for years, and you say you’ll do them someday—well I’ve done them all now.”

Shirley says he now sees up to 50 customers a day and is quick to add that he talks to the people, but doesn’t necessarily sell them anything.

“Many of them don’t want anything—they come it to chit chat. It’s not like we’re sitting here getting rich. The money isn’t holding me up, and that’s not the issue.  If I had an issue, I could just close, and that would be it.”

George said he hadn’t ordered any new merchandise while the store was closed to the public, but it is now extremely difficult to get merchandise.

“I hadn’t been ordering while I was closed, but I did finally order and instead of taking two days, it took two weeks.  True Value was so far behind that in the Cleveland warehouse, they had trucks that couldn’t get unloaded. They hired 500 people, and they had 100 people a day calling in sick.

“They put everything on hold until they got caught up. One of the reasons for that in the city, people use Amazon more than they do here. Here, they can just drive to wherever and pick it up at the store.”

George unloads his merchandise at his store despite having to lay off his four part-time employees.

As we ended the interview, George reminded me of another one of his rules: No photos of George Shirey allowed.

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