Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Q.G.Hampton Rentals and Housing Co. Empire

The following morning, Bunny and Vivian happened to walk into the office at the same time. They were laughing about the conversation they had had with Art the previous afternoon. Vivian said,"I'm not sure he knows what happened to him."

"Oh, I think he was nice."

"Bunny, of course he was nice. If he was ugly, no one would talk to him. He needed to talk to many of us as possible to write his story."

"Well, I guess so."

"Bunny, you realize he was more interested in finding out bad stuff about Terse than good?"

"Why would he do that? We all know Terse is nice person and has never done anything wrong."

"Bunny, do you read those magazines about the movie stars that talk about someone getting so fat, or a star cheating on his wife, or one is near death." 

Looking very serious, Bunny replied, "If I don't buy the magazine, I at least read the front when I see the magazine on the rack at the Rexall Pharmacy."

"Everyone is more interested in the bad stuff, what someone has done wrong - that they have cheated in a relationship, have a drinking problem. That was what Art wanted to find. But, Terse is not like that. I think the worse thing that ever happened to Terse was his not being serious about a job after college and he is not embarrassed about that. It was that job at the Press-Register that led to his career in writing."

"Really? So Art did not want  to hear nice things about Terse?"

"Well some nice things, but the dirt was worth more to him."

By this time they were in the office. It was very obvious things were not going well with Della. Bunny walked over to her. "Della, honey, are you OK? Has something happened?"

With tears in her eyes, Della said, 'It's Sam."

"What about Sam?" asked Vivian. "Is he OK?"

Della answered, "He is fine. He has been called on a long term assignment - for a year. And he cannot tell me where he will be. He cannot tell me anything. He'll be gone for at least a year. And I will not know anything." She started crying.

Vivian walked behind Della's Desk and put her arms around Della's shoulders,"Honey, we'll be here for you. That's his job. You have to trust him."

Della stopped sobbing, "I know, I will just miss him."

Bunny smiled, "We all will."

The three of them talked some more then each went to her own desk and they started the day. It was the first of the month, the date rents were due. That was a red letter day at the Q.G.Hampton Rentals and Housing Co. By just looking at the office and the small staff, one may think that this was a small town, small time operation - maybe renting a few 321's Wade had picked up when the government sold them at auction.

That was far from the truth. Wade had inherited several of the older buildings (circa early 1900's) on the main street that faced the park in the center of town. As a young man he had managed to buy several more, using the rental income to finance the mortgages,  maintenance on each, and renovations if necessary. These properties were then leased to local businesses.

His pride and joy was the old Beauregard Hotel at 112 Oak Street. He had put a lot of money into restoring the old building trying to maintain as much of the original character as possible.  He had also made the second and third floors of the buildings on the park into nice apartments. In doing so, he had made a point of keeping as much of the original interior as possible, including the original hardwood floors and any other fixtures that still remained in the buildings.

Wade had also snapped up small craftsman cottages as well as some of the larger homes from families who were ready to sell the properties as they settled their parents' and grandparents' estates. The volume of homes, apartments, business locations, and buildings had made Wade a very wealthy man. One of the secrets of his success was having nice attractive properties, quick  and efficient customer service by his staff, and excellent maintenance.

Just because someone rented from Wade did not mean they could not afford their own home. Many folks found it much easier, more efficient, and convenient to rent from Wade, than own a home themselves. Wade was most happy to put their money into his bank account. There had been no debt on the properties for so long that there was a significant profit even after insurance, taxes, maintenance, and the cost of his staff were covered. 

Maisy Ruth had paid by automatic draft since she moved in. Now Terse had his first book behind him. Now he could pay attention to other details - such as paying his rent so his rent was also handled by automatic draft. Ed always paid his Diner's rent in cash. He and Wade worked a deal that was beneficial to both and, as Ed often said, screwed that G**  D***  IRS to the wall. Lavenia, Frank, Heddie, Millie Quinn (Millie's Cut and Curl), and Dr. Magill had no desire to tangle with the IRS, therefore their rent was paid on time with a company check. 

Wade also had a philanthropic side. The Episcopal church's investments took a slide south due to their entire account being put into a new winery in upper Alabama. They knew it would be several years before they saw any profits from the investment, given the vines were new. However, a plague that wiped out every plant in every field, was disastrous news. The vineyard went bankrupt and what was left was sold at auction. It looked at one time that the Church of the Seven Walls and Three Stones  would be going down that same path. 

When Wade got word of this problem, he contacted Bob Maybank and met with him at the accounting office. Wade made Bob assure him that their meeting and everything having to do with it would be held in the strictest confidence. Wade gave a Bob a check for the same amount of money the church had originally invested in the vineyard. "Now," said Wade, "I need you to get these funds invested into a safe, but productive, Spider Fund. And, I want to make sure this is totally anonymous."

Bob assured him that he would. Wade added,"This should cover my ass not being in church for some time." 

Bob laughed,"Wade, I don't think even this much money will get you a seat in heaven."

Wade stood up to leave,"I'm not trying to get to heaven Bob, I'm just trying to weasel my way out of Hell."

Bob just shook his head with a smile. They exchanged pleasantries and Wade left.

The Baptist church always rented a house for their current minister at the time. So this was the Barker's home that had burned. Iris had been allowed to stay in the house until a new minister was hired and moved to Gallagher. Wade was not charging Iris for the cottage where she was currently staying. He had yet to decide what to do with the property on which the burned house was located.

Walter had worked a deal to handle Wade's Cafe bill. At the end of each month they would settle up. Sometimes Walter owed Wade money, but more often Wade was in debt to Walter. Since Wade ate many of his meals in the Starlight Cafe, it was not unusual for him to send Walter cash to cover the amount of his tab that was more than the Starlight's monthly rent.

If the first of the month was on a Monday, Mae's rent would be a day late. She paid Wade with her tip money. Since the majority of that was in coins, she needed to go to the bank and have it converted to bills. If there was more there than her rent, she would have the bank deposit the difference into her Christmas Club Account. Of course, the Eldridge twins came in the office, together, to pay their rent in cash. The difference with them was that most cash payments were made directly to Wade. In turn he would work with Vivian on how the money was put on the books - or not. The twins rent was paid and noted in cash.

The pharmacy's rent was paid directly from the Rexall Corporation.  Other renters included the Haney's (the Barker's neighbor), Hugh McKissick (a young man the townspeople rarely saw), Bates (Anna Belle's chef),  as well as Andrew (Anna Belle's butler). Some of the other happy residents included Imogene and Joe Wadsworth (the town cop and his wife) and Hattie (the chef and partner at the Tea Room).

Since these businesses were seen as Gallagher "Institutions" it had been years since Wade had increased anyones rent. And chances were one was not coming in the future. An outsider could say that Wade owned a good deal of the town, which was true. Some would say he was building an empire. Wade looked at it as preserving Gallagher, and giving residents good clean well maintained homes for reasonable prices. Looking at it this way, it was a win-win.

No comments: