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Clinton’s iconic Paul’s Discount store closing; inside the history of the 54 year old family business

CLINTON, Iowa  --  The long-time Clinton store, Paul's Discount, is closing it's doors this summer. Today, April 25th, hundreds of people lined up outside the 54-year-old business for the first day of the closing sale.

"I have known the majority of the people that have walked in," employee for 44 years, Don McKinley, said. "Some of them, I don't know their names, but I know their faces."

Rob Cassidy is a third generation owner. His grandfather, Paul Parker Cassidy, and father, Bob Cassidy, opened the discount store in 1964. Rob joined the management team a few years before his grandfather retired in 1986.

"Most people did not know him as Paul," Cassidy said. "His given name was Paul Parker Cassidy, but he went by his middle name."

The store began to gain recognition for its low prices and variety of products. The store adopted the slogan "if you can't find it at Paul's, you don't need it."

"When they first opened their doors, it was all about price," Cassidy said. "Stack it high and sell it low, that was their slogan."

But, it was more than fair prices that kept customers coming back for 54 years, it was the customer service.

"I was the third customer to come into this store when it opened," longtime customer Richard Nelson said. "I was the first customer to come in when it closed. I'm devastated to see it go."

"It's the right decision," Cassidy said. "It's a very difficult decision to deliver to the employees and the community, because we are so beloved in this town."

Cassidy says due to online shopping growing in popularity, the store can't do enough in sales to cover costs. He says the hardest part about the store closing are the employees and the memories.

"I remember my dad and grandfather," Cassidy said. "I was only two years old when they started this business. I remember working here as a kid. I started out on the ground level picking up boxes and restocking shelves."

Cassidy says the business survived against bigger store by bringing in products you couldn't find anywhere else.

"We were the price leader from 1964 until the day Walmart came," he said.

"They treat you like you're a king when you come in here," Nelson said. "That's what I like about it."

Many customers have asked Cassidy about iconic elements to the store, like the historic pony, boat, and sign.

"People have so many memories of going to Paul's with their parents and riding the boat and pony," Cassidy said. "My wife and I are going to keep the pony. We want to use it for grandkid bait."

As for the sign and boat, Cassidy is still undecided on what he will do with the mementos.

This is the second store closing for Cassidy and his family. They closed the Iowa City location in July after 36 years.

"I was shocked at the outpouring of support we got when we closed our Iowa City store," Cassidy said.

Closing date is set for July 27th, but Cassidy says that date may change depending on how quick items sell. They plan to sell the building and land after the closing.

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