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Weekly 150

The Grocery Chain that Changed the Face of McKenzie – Part II

Growth of the U-Tote-’Em Chain Stores

By Mary Lou Carlisle, The Bookkeeper from Missouri
Posted 5/14/19

The following is a continuation from the previous edition. The information was written by Mary Lou Carlisle for The McKenzie Banner in May 1956.

In 1935 an experimental corn processing plant was …

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Weekly 150

The Grocery Chain that Changed the Face of McKenzie – Part II

Growth of the U-Tote-’Em Chain Stores

Posted

The following is a continuation from the previous edition. The information was written by Mary Lou Carlisle for The McKenzie Banner in May 1956.

In 1935 an experimental corn processing plant was installed to convert locally grown corn into finished products. This provided a cash market for the farmer’s grain and in turn provided the community with corn meal and other finished products at 25 percent less cost.

The experiment not only proved worthwhile for the farmers, but it turned out to be a paying proposition for the company. At that time, they felt justified in installing a larger corn processing plant and grain elevator. A few years later the plant built in 1935 could not longer meet the demand.

Therefore, they began the process of enlarging the storage and shipping capacity, which is still continuing. The present milling plant is one of the largest and most modern all-electric plant of its kind in West Tennessee.

The Keco Milling Company, whose title is derived from the initials of its marker partners (Glen A. King and Ben T. Everett), receives grain from several states. It ships finished products to ten states – Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, and North Carolina. This is a reverse situation which existed in the previous years.

The milling company blends the U-Tote-’Em brands of flour, corn meal, a new product – hush puppy mix, and all kinds of poultry and livestock feed. In recent years pellet machines have been installed.

When the trend for self-service super markets swept the country, U-Tote-’Em began the task of converting the old-time cracker barrel stores into modern super markets. The first was installed in Paris, Tennessee, in 1947. From then until the present time, practically all of the stores have been changed over into modern super markets with a larger variety of merchandise. The majority have been moved to the suburban areas of town with plenty of parking space provided. The stores have all the convenience and comforts which make customer’s shopping a pleasure instead of a task.

The operation of a few of the smaller old-time stores has been discontinued. At present U-Tote-’Em is operating 29 stores in West Kentucky and West Tennessee.

U-Tote-’Em selects the managers of its stores from among the employees. Several hundred men and women are employed for the stores, warehouse, and the milling company. The owners instituted a profit-sharing plan for the workers.

In 1954, the King and Everett partnership which had persisted since 1918 was dissolved. The Kings bought the Everetts’ share of the business. The two partners had worked long and hard, and had shared the many difficulties of the earlier development of the company.

Although Mr. King has no intention of retiring very soon from the management of U-Tote-’Em affairs, he brought his children into the firm as junior partners. He expects them some day to continue the family-owned, family-operated tradition. Chandler King, the eldest son, is the buyer for the firm. Jerry, the second son, is the general manager of the Keco Milling Company. Glen Jr., the youngest son, is the advertising manager for the firm.

The stores, the Cash Economy Wholesale Grocery Company (the wholesale buying and warehousing department), and the Keco Milling Company are highly organized and to a considerable extent self-sufficient. The U-Tote-’Em tradition is persistent and profitable. They believe in the simple formula “Make your customer your friends.”

The U-Tote-’Em grocery chain continued on a few years past 1956. The chain was eventually sold to another chain and is no longer in existence.

In 1961, the warehouse became Southern Biological Supply Company, owned by Chandler and Sybil King; which was torn down in 2018. The Keco Milling Company lasted several years and under various handlers. The building is now occupied by Dale’s Recycling.

Jason R. Martin

B.S. • M.A.Ed • MLS

Councilman, Ward II

Executive Chairman, McKenzie 150th Celebration

E: jmartin@mckenziebanner.com  P: 731.352.3323

Jason Martin is a life-long resident of McKenzie. He graduated from McKenzie High School in 2000; earned a Bachelor of Science in History from Bethel College in 2004; a Masters in Education from Bethel University in 2009 and a Masters in History and Humanities from Fort Hays State University in 2011.

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