Franklin “Frank” Ferple III, president of the Ferple Happy Homes Development Company, was sitting in his large oak-paneled office, behind his large oak desk, underneath a large oil painting of his grandfather, Franklin Ferple I. He had been trying for the last half hour to untangle his ear buds, and was finally starting to make some progress.
There was a knock at the door.
The door opened slowly, and in walked Richards, a senior associate in the sales department. “Mr. Ferple,” he said, “I am terribly sorry to interrupt you. But there has been a development that I think you should know about.”
“Was there a break in those new water pipes weve been using? I knew I should’ve done more research before buying anything made of beeswax.”
“That’s not it, sir. It’s these grain silo homes. Instead of buying regular houses, people are buying these grain silos and converting them into homes.”
“Yes, sir. Grain silos. It is the latest trend. Just google it and you’ll see.”
“But I don’t understand. Why a grain silo? Where do they put all the grain? They must keep in their homes in case they need to bake bread.”
“Yes, sir, that must be it.”
“Okay, so people live in houses made of grain silos. What does that have to do with our core business of houses made of houses?”
“Sir, our sales have already been in decline for years. With this competition from grain silo homes, we’ll be totally out of business before long.”
Frank leaned back in his chair, put his fists together, raised his two index fingers to form a steeple, and then pressed the little hand-made structure to his mouth, and said, “Hmmmm.” He said it a few times while the associate stood there, not speaking, wondering if this was not the best time to request a sabbatical.
At last Frank said, ”Aha! I’ve got it. We will fight fire with fire. If they are going to convert grain silos into homes, then we will beat them to it.”
“But how, sir? It’s going to be very difficult to break into the grain silo market now.”
“Then we will have to convert something else, something better than a grain silo.”
“But Mr. Ferple, what could be better than a grain silo?”
Frank stood up from his executive chair, and went over to the window overlooking Main Street. In his mind he saw not the pawn shops and vacant store fronts, the drug dealers and the destitute offering to untangle ear buds for cash, but rather the bustling downtown of his youth, the healthy crowds of well dressed people, out to spend money at vibrant shops stocked with the latest in home appliances, clothing, and entertainment. At least what was considered “latest” back then, he thought grimly. He thought of his most cherished memory at his favorite store, and then spoke with the deep authority of a company president.
“Richards, have you ever heard of Blockbuster Video?”
“Um, it sounds familiar, sir. Is it a streaming channel that you can get on a Fire Stick or Roku?”
“No, Richards. Blockbuster Video was a place. An actual place where you could rent videotapes of your favorite movies. At one time the Blockbuster Video was as ubiquitous as traffic lights and telephone poles. There was not a downtown in America without those gold block letters against a field of truest blue. And I’ve recently heard that the last one has shut its doors forever, and no one has stepped in to replace them.”
He turned to face his young associate.
“But Richards, we are going to make those Blockbuster Video locations into homes.”
So the Ferple Happy Homes Development Company began buying abandoned Blockbuster Video locations, and converting them into homes. It was a challenge installing kitchen and bathroom fixtures when shelves of videocassettes covered the walls. But the key to the popularity of these homes was the sign out front. Frank was adamant, against the advice of his lawyers, to keep the Blockbuster Video sign exactly the same. And for once the president’s instinct was correct, for it quickly became the apex of cool, the very embodiment of trendy, to live in a house made out of a converted Blockbuster Video.
In fact, the trend was so popular that Happy Homes expanded into other types of conversions. Soon they had people purchasing homes that were once locations of Borders, Toys R Us, and even Sears. The Sears conversions were especially lucrative because these were made into apartment buildings. Each apartment occupied a different Sears department, so they became known as department buildings. And instead of saying you live in Apartment 3C, you lived in “Housewares” or “Men’s Clothing.”
“You did it, sir!” said Richards after the quarterly stockholder conference call was over. “Our profits are through the roof. The Ferple Happy Homes Development Company is back!”
“I knew we would do it,” Frank said. “You can get us down, but never out. What’s wrong? You look worried all of a sudden.”
“Sir, there is still a lot of unsold inventory of regular houses. No one wants to live in a house that was originally a house anymore. They just want to convert something into a house. What will we do with the regular houses we built. Who is going to live in them?”
Frank smiled and said, “I’ve already thought of this.” And he held up a video tape. Richards peered at the object and furrowed his brow and tried in vain to name it. Frank laughed. “It’s a video tape. We’ve got thousands of them now. And we’re going to put them in the houses we’ve built, and sell them to people out of the houses.”
“Sell them? But, Mr. Ferple, how will people watch the videos? Don’t they need a V-C-Whats it?”
Frank shook his head and smiled again. “Watch them? Richards, haven’t you learned anything?”