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Posted: November 24, 2014

Successful city son urges people to never quit

Darrell Jones began working for Overwaitea Foods in Cranbrook 37 years ago when he was 16-years-old. Jones began by bagging groceries at the store, located on Baker Street at the time.

Today, Jones is the president of the company.

“Many successful people came out of that store,” Jones told a packed Heritage Inn conference hall Nov. 19, during the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon meeting.

“I consider myself very lucky to have grown up in Cranbrook,” he said. “I have such a love and a fondness for Cranbrook,” the Mount Baker Secondary School grad (1977) said.

Jones’ message to chamber members, that anyone can succeed if they keep trying and don’t listen to negativity, was elaborately presented with vignettes providing proof.

Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski, Darrell Jones and Cranbrook Save-On-Foods manager Len Steenson. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW
Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski, Darrell Jones and Cranbrook Save-On-Foods manager Len Steenson. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

He said he follows two key rules in life. The first, in both business and pleasure, is “do anything you like as long as you are comfortable with it being published on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow.”

The second rule relates to the number one reason people fail, Jones said. “They fail because they listen to people who tell them they can’t do it. People listen to that and the terrible part is that they believe it. You can be as successful as you choose to be.”

Jones spoke about the person with the most filed patents in history – Thomas Edison.

“His teachers told him he was too stupid to learn anything,” he exclaimed, noting Edison refused to listen and refused to admit defeat. The inventor of the first commercially practical incandescent light didn’t stumble upon his great gift to humankind; it took him 1,000 attempts, Jones said.

“He said, I didn’t fail 1,000 times; the light bulb was invented in 1,000 steps,” Jones pointed out.

Another hugely successful entrepreneur was Walt Disney, the creator of Mickey Mouse etc. and the first large theme park in the world.

“He heard ‘no’ from virtually everybody he spoke to,” when initially seeking financial backing for the theme park. “He went to bank after bank,” Jones said, creating a shocked murmur from the audience when he related that Disney found success at the 302nd banker’s door.

A third story Jones used to illustrate his point that perseverance can pay off was that of Col. Harland Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Overwaitea and Save-On-Foods employees with Jones at the luncheon.
Overwaitea and Save-On-Foods employees with Jones at the luncheon.

Sanders began as the owner of a gas station, located at a busy Kentucky highway junction. He had a pressure cooker and made his now world-famous fried chicken and sold it as a supplement to his gas station revenue.

Then, when Sanders was 65-years-old, his business was dealt a potential deathblow when an overpass was constructed, removing his drive-by presence.

With no money, he took his pressure cooker and recipe of 11 ‘secret’ herbs and spices and drove to all the restaurants in his region, showcasing his “franchise” to the owners and offering them the goods as long as they paid him a nickel per chicken sold.

Within five years he had established 600 franchise outlets.

“At 65, most people would have packed it in,” Jones said, adding that Sanders sold his business in 1964 for $2.5 million.

The newly owned franchise continued to use his likeness. “His was the most famous face in the world up to a couple of years ago,” Jones said.

Another example of perseverance and refusing to accept ‘no’ working out is the story of Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile.

Prior to that, the four-minute mile was a psychological barrier that could not be cracked because of negative thinking.

“Despite everybody saying it couldn’t be done,” Bannister continued to work at it, including breaking down the different running race distances, from the 100 yard, 200 yard, 400 and 800 yard distances and pouring over what it took to be successful running each of those distances. He finally broke the four-minute mile and one year later, 64 other runners had broken that barrier.

“The only way you truly fail in life is if you quit,” Jones said. Don’t quit; adjust and refine. Look at me!” He said.

“I never quit,” he said, urging people to do their best, learn from their mistakes and keep going.

“Cranbrook has a history of being successful,” he said, pointing out that 17 NHL players have risen from Cranbrook’s minor hockey ranks.

“Per capita, Cranbrook has had more NHL hockey players come from it than any city in the world. This is a town built on having winners and champions,” he stated.

The visit to Cranbrook was the second in the past year for Jones, who filmed a television commercial here last March.

During that visit, he planted a seed that grew into an idea for City of Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski. The outgoing mayor considered Cranbrook’s status as the sunniest city in B.C. and began mulling over the idea of the creation of a greenhouse industry in the city. Stetski then asked Jones if Overwaitea would support such an endeavor, who replied positively.

Last Wednesday, Stetski pressed Jones again, who replied, “We committed we’d be there to support; we will sell the products.”

He said if there is a committed entrepreneur out there “who doesn’t want to quit,” there is a business opportunity with his company.

Overwaitea Food Group has been operating in Cranbrook for 90 years and the company founded by RC Kidd in New Westminster in 1915, will turn 100 next year.

“We do more business in one store today than in all the stores in 1968,” when Kidd sold the franchise to B.C. entrepreneur James Pattison, Jones said.

The franchise, which includes Save-On-Foods, now has 14,000 employees and is planning to expand into Saskatchewan and Manitoba this year, as well as open more stores in Alberta.

By informing the chamber audience about his company’s latest news, showing it progressing, Jones concluded his talk by returning to the start.

He reminded, “You always have to believe in yourself and you cannot sit on your laurels; you have to continue to moving forward. If I can do it, you can do it.”

Lead image: Darrell Jones, centre, with Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce staff Nov. 19 at the Heritage Inn.

Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

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