News Columns & Blogs

Funeral for a friend

On Wednesday, Newton and Kansas lost one of its greatest entrepreneurs when my friend Jan Anderson was buried.

Jan was the matriarch of the third generation behind Newton’s oldest business, the 118-year-old Anderson Book and Office Supply on the southwest corner of Main and Broadway.

Jan was an Anderson by marriage, but I never thought of her that way: Her unswerving loyalty, grace and business acumen made her more of an Anderson sister in my mind.

She fit seamlessly into the uncomplicated yet effective “business plan” that the Andersons have practiced for decades: Treat customers as friends, sell them quality products and offer them the highest level of customer service.

The Andersons are entrepreneurs in the purest sense of the word, entrepreneurs who haven’t hesitated to reinvent themselves: from appliances to texbooks to books to office supply to a burgeoning eBay business.

Jan and her husband Phil, and the generations before them, are a dying breed of American business owner: There’s no focus on maximizing every single dime that can be drawn out of the business month; instead, those numbers take care of themselves if you treat your customers right and sell them quality products.

They’re the antithesis of the Wall Street money grabbers that blew up the American economy. And they did their business thing in a wonderfully nostalgic store right out of the 1930s.

If you want to see business transacted the old fashioned way, pay a visit to the corner of Main and Broadway in Newton. You won’t be sorry.