Meet Harry Owens, former owner of Owens Building Supply and Mayor of the City of Pembroke from 1971 to 1977.
How long have you lived in Bryan County?
You must have seen a lot changes since then. When would you say was the best time period for Pembroke?
Probably from the 1940s through the sixties. All the downtown stores were filled. There were four or five grocery stores in town. There was usually a big gathering every Saturday night in the downtown area, where folks would go shopping.
Do you enjoy living in North Bryan?
It’s a great place to be. It’s a good country town where everybody knows everybody.
Why do you think the economy of the town has gone down since its heyday?
Part of it was bigger chain stores opening outside of town. It just seemed like folks started to go out of town to shop.
You owned a store yourself for many years, didn’t you?
In the fifties, I got into the building supply business. Mr. (Jack) Shuman had a hardware and building supply store just out of town on 280, where the fertilizer plant is now. He hired me to work for him. That store became the Wal-Mart of that time. We sold everything in there.
We opened 27 stores throughout the southeast, and the Pembroke location was the distribution center for all the other stores as well as a retail store. I was a sales person for him. In 1963, he sold me the interests in the business. It was originally Shuman Supply. It became Shuman-Owens in 1963. In 1988, it became just Owens supply. My daughter Marsha and her husband Terry McCoy run it today.
How is business?
Business is fair, but it’s a tough time for that industry right now, and there’s a lot of competition. They own about four stores, and they’ve manage to keep the stores running pretty well.
Tell me about your venture into politics – what led you to run for mayor?
I first ran for city council. The mayor was Frank Miller back then; he was the local newspaper man. When Mr. Miller died, Mr. N.L. Ham was appointed mayor but died shortly thereafter. The council members at the time then asked me to run, and the rest is history.
Did you have a good tenure as mayor?
We accomplished a lot of things during my time. We put in the first water/sewer system. We did a mass overhaul of the fire department, and upgraded the fire system. I thought we had the best volunteer fire department in Georgia – and that continues even today.
How many kids do you have?
My wife Elvie and I have two children - Deborah Ann Owens and Marsha McCoy. I have three grandchildren – Tiffany Walraven, who is on the current city council and works for Owens Supply, Hannah Deloach, who also works for Owens Supply Company, and Jordan McCoy, who just entered Lee University.
What do you do in your spare time?
I like to spend time with my family and work in my garden. I grow corn, peas, butter beans, turnips – you name it.