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Local News

January 4, 2014

Beverly's Alfred Marshall built his own brand

Everyone’s life has a story. In “Lives,” we tell some of those stories about North Shore people who have died recently.

BEVERLY — It started with a fruit stand.

Alfred Marshall would drive in to the North End in Boston to buy fresh fruit, then bring it back and sell it at his stand on Enon Street (Route 1A) in North Beverly.

That was followed by the ice cream stand, which he set up next door to make 29-cent banana-split royal sundaes with the bananas left over from his fruit stand.

One day, Marshall saw two men walking through the open field across the street and asked them who owned the land. He bought the land and built a grocery store.

But that was just the beginning for the enterprising Marshall. His next venture would be the one that made him a household name in the world of discount retailing.

Marshall, who died Dec. 28 at the age of 94 in Boca Raton, Fla., built the original Marshalls department store in 1956 on his newly acquired land (on the site of the current Stop & Shop). The self-service clothing and home furnishings store went on to become a nationally known chain that now includes more than 800 stores in 42 states and Puerto Rico.

“He always had something going,” said his son Ronald Marshall. “He never stopped.”

Marshall stocked his stores with leftover or irregular brand-name merchandise that he purchased from auctions, manufacturers or upscale stores on Newbury Street and Brookline Avenue in Boston. He sold the merchandise at a discount, using slogans like “Brand names for less” and “Why pay more?”

Ronald Marshall remembers seeing a picture of his father in his store in front of a sign that read, “Women’s housecoats — 97 cents.”

“Some of the clothes weren’t perfect; some were,” Ronald Marshall said. “He priced them according to quality.”

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