Growing tradition

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, March 14, 2007

By By Lydia Grimes – features reporter
It's not very often that a person works at the same place for 52 years, but that is just what Homer Douglas has done.
Douglas has worked for or owned the Farmer's Exchange for that many years. Even though he has officially retired, he still comes to work every day. And he does it without receiving any salary.
Farmer's Exchange has seen many changes over the years and Douglas has had to change with them.
Of course they have had to expand their range of business. Today they have plumbing supplies, hardware, seed feed, plants and fertilizer. Douglas brought his son, Eric, into the business some years back and today Eric runs the place.
Douglas was born in Roseboro, N.C. in 1924. His father was from Escambia County and had served in World War I. After the elder Douglas got out of the military, he went to North Carolina to visit his sister. He met and married while there and they had two children there before deciding to return to Dixie. He opened a little store at Dixie and as the children grew, they helped their dad with the business. There were six children in all and their father and mother taught them good work ethics.
Homer Douglas attended high school at W.S. Neal and graduated in 1943. He entered the U.S. Marine Corps and served about a year. He was discharged because of a bad knee that he got while playing sports in high school.
After he returned home, he got some help from Theron Jennings to get a football scholarship to Auburn, but the knee continued to bother him and he was forced to quit.
In 1945, he got married to a local girl, Joyce Cobb.
He never went back to school and he thinks it is one of the best moves he ever made.
He went to work as an agriculture teacher for the state, teaching the vets how to farm and keep records. He worked at that for about seven years and then did construction work for a couple of years.
His next job was at Farmer's Exchange. Several people owned it as a partnership at the time. It was located on the corner of St. Nicholas Avenue and Simmons Street. This was the street that ran behind the Ritz Theater, which today is Persimmon Street.
As partners in the business decided to sell out, Douglas bought up their shares until he owned the whole business.
Business was good and it flourished. But then in 1975, the rains came and downtown Brewton and East Brewton were flooded.
Later the buildings along Simmons Street were all condemned and made a flood zone.
Douglas had to go looking for a new home for the Farmer's Exchange. He found it on the corner of Lee and Green Streets in downtown Brewton. The building that used to house Piggly Wiggly was available.
The move was made in 1989. Today Eric Douglas runs the store and his wife keeps the books.
Douglas has a farm outside of town that he loves to visit and he loves to spend time with his wife. They have two children, Eric and Debbie Ellis. They have three granddaughters, Leah, Alisha and Kristin.
But don't count him out - Homer is not ready to sit back and take it easy. He is one of the best employees Farmer's Exchange has. He doesn't draw a salary anymore, but he still finds his way to the store every day.