K-Mart is a name and a store most Americans are familiar with. But most people do not know that the man behind the store had a Memphis connection.
Born in Pennsylvania in 1867, Sebastian S. Kresge would spend the majority of his life in business pursuits. After attending public school, Kresge realized that he had an aptitude for business and entered the Eastman College of Business to learn the ropes. After graduating, he worked in a multitude of business jobs, from a clerk to a bookkeeper, then a traveling salesman.
But his first opportunity to work in management arose in Memphis in 1897. Saving $8,000, he entered a partnership with J.G. McCrory and opened five and dime stores in Memphis and Detroit. It was in the Memphis store that Kresge was given the responsibility as manager.
He only stayed in Memphis for sixteen months, but this time proved critical in the development of the young businessman. After two years, he took sole ownership of the Detroit store. In 1912, he created one of the most prominent businesses in America, the S.S. Kresge Company. The company did quite well, and Kresge soon became one of the wealthiest businessmen in America.
In 1962, the Kresge Company opened the first K-Mart store. Kresge passed away in 1966, but the important lessons he learned in Memphis stayed with him throughout his business career.