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After more than 50 years, Mary Carter Store going strong |

After more than 50 years, Mary Carter Store going strong

The Mary Carter Store has a long history at its corner location in downtown Cullman, but the past is far from the minds of the family of owners who keep the business current and thriving for customers.

More than 50 years ago, Mary Carter Paint Stores were a franchise known for doing just what their name signified — mixing and selling paint. As markets changed with time, Raymond Young, who has owned the store for 53 years, saw the need to diversify the offerings to customers. That keen eye, with the longtime assistance of his wife, Brenda, and now sons — Jeff and Jeremy — and brother-in-law Fred Osborne, has made the store more than just an interesting stop for travelers; it is that, but remaining competitive and beating large retail chain stores on quality and pricing is the secret of Mary Carter’s success.

Framing is one of the first additions to the store’s services years ago. That remains a strong part of the business, and it’s been colorful at times.

Hank Williams Jr. wanted a photo of a naked woman framed. Williams thought enough of Mary Carter that he store got a line in his song, “I Got Rights.”

“We nicknamed him Hanky Panky. You just never know what someone wants to frame and why. We just find a way to frame it,” Osborne said.

Another customer had an old hubcap he admired, and that was framed.

Former Gov. James “Big Jim” Folsom liked to stop by when he lived in town.

“He used to walk to Vinemont and back a lot of days for exercise and would come by. His wife and family came in a lot and they were a lot of fun,” Raymond remembers.

While many home-owned businesses have encountered difficulties competing against big national retailers that have the buying power and square footage to carry vast quantities of different products, the Youngs and Osborne recognized years ago that personal service and quality products sell and create a lasting relationship with customers.

“A lot of people don’t like to shop in the big box stores,” Young said. “We do well with sporting goods products, canning supplies, framing, keys and several other products. We have iron skillets and we talk to people about how to season them so that they get the best experience from them.”

Jeff Young is the key master at Mary Carter. A simple social media post about the store’s ability to replace electronic keys at a reasonable price brought waves of customers, and it hasn’t slowed down.

Many anglers also visit the store for supplies, everything from reels to line and lures. And a bit of assistance and advice on products.

“Fishing line is like shampoo — there are so many types to choose from,” Jeff said. “We’re able to talk with customers and show them a quality lineup that’s reasonably priced and effective. And we string the reels and help with the maintenance of their equipment.”

Jeremy joined the family business about eight years ago and finds himself doing a bit of everything during a day.

“I’m the designated cashier, but I look over the stock and rotate products. It’s always busy. It’s steady year-’round,” Jeremy said. “It’s really interesting, too, to see what the customers want and being able to help them. People come from a lot of locations for the service.”

Among the services offered by the staff is assembling products at no charge after purchases are made.

“I think what keeps people coming back is the quality of products and the service. We offer that and we enjoy doing this for people,” Jeff said.

With a thriving downtown, Mary Carter stands out for many reasons. The store includes several buildings and is host to a number of cats. The cupula atop the main portion of the store has been a fixture for year, and was promptly replaced after the 2011 tornado downtown damaged the structure.

“We see a lot of people from other communities and states come in,” Raymond said. “We keep some products that are older or nostalgic that brings back memories for people. It’s just part of the Mary Carter Store. And we can still mix a good can of paint.”

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