By Kent Larsen
Mesa's Missionary Outfitter Celebrates 50 Years in Business
MESA, ARIZONA -- Wayne Pomeroy celebrated his 78th birthday yesterday, and
is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his downtown Mesa clothing store this
week. Pomeroy's Mens Store has been at the same location, the historic
Pomeroy building, named for his grandfather and great uncles who built it,
for all of those 50 years, outfitting hundreds, if not thousands, of LDS
missionaries during those years. And Pomeroy has been an active part of the
city and Mormon culture in Mesa during that time.
Pomeroy was first introduced to work in retail clothing at the age of 10,
when he worked for Mesa's Friedie's Department Store,housed in the same
building where Pomeroy's is now, and came to the conclusion that retail was
what he wanted to do with his life. After high school, Pomeroy worked
briefly for Douglas Aircraft in California before joining the military
during World War II. As a tail gunner, Pomeroy was assigned to work on B-24
bombers in Italy and was wounded in the leg when a 20mm bullet penetrated
the turret and exploded. His service earned him the Silver Star, a Purple
Heart and an Air Medal.
Returning from World War II, Pomeroy stayed briefly in New York City,
working in retail stores there, where he met Samuel Lerner, well known for
his Lerner's women's apparel stores. "I didn't really have any money,
because I'd been to war, and my father died when I was in high school. I
could've stayed in New York with my master's and been in the real retail
world there, but I wanted to live in Mesa and have a store here."
His friendship with Lerner helped, and Lerner, who owned the Pomeroy
building at the time, lent him start-up money for his store and became a
partner. Pomeroy later bought-out Lerner and grew his business throughout
Arizona. At one time he owned as many as six Pomeroy's mens stores, but
today only the Mesa store remains. Pomeroy says that the store has been
successful because he has personally stayed in touch with his customers. "A
lot has to do with the fact that we developed a pretty good reputation over
the years for honesty, good merchandise and fair treatment."
The stores today clearly cater to missionaries. Like the better-known Mr.
Mac stores in Utah, Pomeroy's carries two-pants suits and a variety of men's
wear appropriate for LDS missionaries. He says that his customers come from
far and wide because of his reputation, "They come from all over Arizona and
they come from out of state, too. We get them from as far away as El Paso,
we get them from the colonies in Mexico, and we even get some from California."
In spite of his birthday, Pomeroy has no intention of slowing down. "If you
keep going, then you're so much better off. I have a lot of friends with
health problems who retired. I'd rather keep going and act like I'm young,"
he says. His years of public service in Mesa show that he has been effective
also. In the 1960s he entered city politics, serving on the Mesa City
Council from 1966 to 1974, including a term as vice mayor from 1972 to 1974.
Two years later he won election as Mayor, serving from 1976 to 1980. During
his tenure the Fiesta Mall was built. A few years ago he returned to the
city council for a year to replace a council member who resigned.
Today he is working to enliven the city's downtown by bringing bronze
sculptures by J. Seward Johnson Jr. to the city. Currently the statues are
in place on lease, and Pomeroy is trying to find funding to purchase them.
He hopes that the purchase will start Mesa on a new road, "We hope to be the
city of sculptures; that's what I'm hoping, anyway." He wants to commission
sculptures that capture the history of Mesa.
And even if he accomplishes this goal, Pomeroy says he won't retire. "I
don't want to retire. I hope the good Lord will just let me keep doing this
and coming to work and being healthy . . . I want to keep going as long as
Pomeroy's a good fit
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 13Mar01 B2
By Geri Koeppel: Special for The Republic
Clothier turns 78, his store in Mesa 50