crew includes other managers, naming Ricky Aldridge at Jasper, Ken
Loveless in Haleyville, and Karen Linker of Russellville as his pit
guys. "We all work together on buying stuff and sharing inventory.
It helps the smaller stores to do that and it’s good to share ideas
and problems, too." Lann said he gets excellent support from the
AFC, as well.
said his second surprise (after the award) came when he realized his
wife Della had kept the secret from him. "I didn’t know she could
do that," he said. "Now I know why she wouldn’t let me leave
the meeting to go to the bathroom."
36, began his career with the Marion County Cooperative while he was
still at Hamilton High School, hiring on as Garden Center Manager in
April of 1987, under the school’s Trade and Industry program. After
graduation, he continued with the store and in July of ’95 was
promoted to Assistant Manager.
move to Manager came in 1998 with his first year seeing $67,757 in
know, I almost didn’t take that job. I was scared of so much
responsibility because I knew the buck always stops at your backside,
but Chris Gary kept after me and once he talked me into it, he stayed
for three months watching my back even though he was ready to go off and
build chicken houses. I learned everything from him. He already had it
going in the right direction and all I had to do was keep going."
keep going, he did. Since 1998, Marion County Cooperative has returned
$521,373 in patronage to the members, including $93,830 in fiscal year
store’s sales to patrons for 2005 were $2,497,000 and inventory turns
receivable were 87% current in 2005, a fact Lann attributes to having
really good customers who pay their bills and a combination of payment
options. "I hate chasing bad money. I don’t like collections at
all, so we use a combination of in-house credit and the farm plan. That
works best for us."
to the success of his store, Lann said they’ve not made many changes
since the ‘90s. "We’ve added an extra warehouse, a 5-bay tire
and lube center, extra showroom space, New products include Carhartt
clothing and a full-type wagon sprayer that we rent out. We started
selling those Zero-Turn Hustler mowers and they’re moving well. We
sold 16 the first year we sold them.
grew up in Hamilton, the son of hog farmers. He shared work on the place
with his brother. "We didn’t farm, just grew a little corn for
the hogs," he said. It’s hard work, one reason why he and his
brother decided not to go the way of farming. "I don’t mind
the work, but there’s not a lot of profit."
had to do it when we were little, we didn’t have no choice. Daddy had
an old two-row John Deere corn picker and another one, but he got mad at
us and sold those corn pickers. After that he liked to laugh and say he
still had two corn pickers.
is hard work and I don’t see how folks make a living at it. It
impresses me that so many of them can, but when I look at the costs
versus profit, I don’t see how they do it. They have my respect;
without them we wouldn’t have a job."
he a good boss at Marion County Cooperative? "You would have to ask
my people about that," he said. "I try to get along with
everyone and I try not to burn bridges because you usually have to go
back across them before it’s over. I believe in being a working
manager, and I hope that‘s what they think I am."
he’s not at the store, Stephen and Della Lann like to work in their
½-acre garden, growing vegetables for freezing and canning. Della is a
regional manager for Pizza Hut, taking care of seven stores, so time is
limited for both the Lanns. They have two grown children, Brad, 21, who
works at Buccaneer Mobile Homes in Hamilton and Brandy, 20, works
in Mobile at TGI Friday’s. The Lanns live just west of Hamilton, about
five miles from the store. "Folks know they can call on Sundays and
we’ll go in for ‘em."
Sharp is a freelance writer from Alabaster.