In his 30-year sales career at the Scotsman/Isanti County News, Merl Thomas has seen his share of change.
However, one thing Merl never changed—his face-to-face interaction with his customers.
“Thirty years ago I went to work at the Scotsman. They put a notebook in my hand and told me to start calling customers,” Merl said this week. “Thirty years later, these customers are now my friends.”
Merl is retiring Friday, Dec. 16, and leaves behind a legacy that will never be forgotten in this office and the community. From Merl’s infamous “Joke of the Week,” or his friendly demeanor, he will be missed.
I’m sure a lot more stories will be shared during a Retirement Open House in Merl’s honor on Friday, Dec. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the lower level of the Cambridge American Legion. All are welcome to attend.
Even though Merl admits there were some frustrating days—like keeping up with all the changes in technology—he always enjoyed his work.
“Interacting with my customers has been the most enjoyable part of my job,” Merl said. “If you like what you do, you never work a day in your life. I like to talk and like to visit, and they paid me every week besides.”
All of his colleagues are now an extended family.
“I’ve worked with wonderful people throughout my career,” Merl said. “I think a company isn’t bricks and mortars. I think a company isn’t bottom lines and budgets. I think a company is the people that you work with, and they become your family. The people I have worked with have been a blessing for me.”
When Merl started with us in 1981, he remembers having to cut and paste ads—literally finding the right clip art from a book, cutting it out and pasting it on an ad.
“I remember every desk had a glue pot and every desk had an Exacto knife. Now that’s a thing of the past,” Merl said. “All the tables were built so you could do your cutting and pasting. Obviously after that, everything was replaced with computers.
“I still like to call on people. I don’t like to call people on the phone and I don’t like to email. Getting ads is like gathering the news. You have to be there to get what you need,” he added.
In his retirement, Merl is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Mary Kay, who is a real estate agent, and his 8 children and 15 grandchildren.
He and Mary Kay are planning a vacation down south this winter, and he’s also planning on spending more time in his basement “woodshop.”
Merl, what can I say that you don’t already know; we are sure going to miss you. Please stop by and visit once in a while, and bring a good joke with you.
Thank you for allowing me to interview you for my column this week. You are certainly a wealth of knowledge.
I like what you said about keeping face-to-face contact with people. I think that is important, and is something we all seem to forget once in a while amidst the advent of technology.