JACKSON – The business that started out selling lumber hit the jackpot by selling TVs instead.
In 1952, James C. “Cowboy” Maloney, and his wife, Dolly, founded Maloney Supply, a building supply company located on Mayes Street in Jackson. But the
following year, on a lark, they started selling “those new-fangled televisions sets” from the lumberyard store. To many, it seemed like an odd business move. To the
Maloneys, there was nothing unusual about it at all.
“We got into appliances simply because my dad and his brothers wanted TVs,” said Con Maloney, CEO of Jackson-based Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City Super
Stores. “TV had just come on the market, and they found out that the smallest number to order wholesale was six, so they ordered them. When they came in, they
were placed in an area of the lumberyard to be disbursed. They had two left over to sell, but before the day was gone, they had sold all six. The next day, they
ordered 12 TVs, sold them all, and from then on, selling lumber and appliances were the norm.”
In 1973, Con Maloney bought the business from his parents. By adding other appliances and opening stores in Jackson, Vicksburg and Hattiesburg, sales that first
year were around $3 million. Then disaster struck in the Easter Flood of 1979.
“In the 1979 flood, we had moved our lumberyard to Harding Street,” Maloney said. “We had a 7-1/2 foot fence around the property, but there was an eight foot
flood. Most of our lumber business floated over the fence. What was left behind either rusted or was molded and mildewed. My brothers were much more interested
in the appliance business than they were in the lumber business, which I was raised in, and since my plate was full serving in the state senate, we just let the lumber
business die. Insurance didn’t cover the losses, so we rebuilt everything based entirely on appliances and electronics.”
In 1991, Maloney, with his brothers, Eddie and Johnny, purchased Electric City, the merchandising arm of Mississippi Power Co., and the name of the business was
changed to Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City. In the transaction, all three Maloney brothers became equal partners.
Four years later, the Maloneys landed a major coup – they sold the first RCA digital satellite system in the world.
“When we heard about the dish system coming out, we went straight to RCA and told them that the DSS was going to be a winner and we wanted to be a part of it,”
Maloney said. “When it came time to introduce it, they remembered us. They needed someone who could handle the product initially, train salespeople quickly, and
introduce it on short notice. Even though they had to sell it to DIRECTV and USSB, who handled the programming, RCA’s relationship with them was so strong that
when RCA said they wanted us to do it, they said fine. Everyone else in the country thought they were going to be first, and all the trade publications said it would be
this company or that, but we kept quiet because we knew we were going to introduce it. It was one of the major coups for anyone in this business.”
Next month, Cowboy Maloney’s will introduce another first: DIRECTV’s new school programming.
“It is DIRECTV’s desire to put something back into the community and we’ll enjoy kicking that program off for them,” Maloney said. “We’ll provide the initial
equipment, and additional equipment can be purchased later. It will be only for learning, not just viewing. It’s rather complicated and expensive, but it will be
introduced right here in Mississippi through us again. We’re working with Piney Woods to get it started there and hopefully the schools in the Jackson area and
throughout the state will get involved next. Where we can donate or get others to donate equipment, DIRECTV will provide the programming. That’s a pretty
expensive venture for them.”
Cowboy Maloney’s also plans to launch another first: mobile radio programming via satellite that can be received in automobiles.
“Again, we were approached because we can introduce a winning product,” he said. “One of the things we have going for us is our personal credibility with the
manufacturers. When they need something done they count on us to do it.”
In another strategic move, Cowboy Maloney’s recently joined NATM Buying Corporation, the largest group of dealers -only 12 – in the country, Maloney said.
“We are the smallest member of the group, but we are there because of our credibility and our dominance in our marketplace,” he said.
Maloney readily admits that success hasn’t come without mistakes.
“The only thing worse than making a mistake is not taking care of it,” he said. “We never rely on customer loyalty. We remember to earn it every day. We teach our
associates that when people walk through our doors, they are our guests and will be treated as such.”
Even though Cowboy Maloney’s has enjoyed healthy growth – now with 300 employees, 13 stores in Mississippi and Tennessee and total sales of more than $50
million – competition is nearby. Best Buy, the No. 1 consumer electronics specialty retailer in the U.S., with 360 stores in 40 states, will soon open a store on County
Line Road in Jackson.
“My brothers and I have competed athletically and truly believe that competition makes us better,” Maloney said. “We’ve never been disturbed by competition coming
into what we feel is our marketplace. We have weathered many others coming into ‘our marketplace.’ Unfortunately for Best Buy and Circuit City, both are heavily
beleaguered stock -wise at this time. They’ve got to fight some externals that we don’t have to deal with. For years, we’ve guaranteed that we will match anybody’s
price – for the same product. So it’s our belief that the only reason for someone to not buy from us is if they just don’t want to. As you may have noticed from our
advertising, we play ourselves up as the home team. The home team wants to play the best and win because it makes us better. Because of that, customers expect
more from us. And we had better deliver.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com.