Paul’s Discount has always had a steady stream of customers, but yesterday, the cust-omers came in droves — packing the parking lot and spilling out onto Ky. 2227 to help president and general manager Joe Frank Neikirk and his employees celebrate 50 years in business.Paul’s Discount, opened in 1960 by Joe’s parents, Paul and Frances Neikirk, is described by Joe as a “unique” store — offering sporting goods, hardware, automotive goods, clothing and crafts.
What started as an Army surplus store with three employees has evolved into a sprawling, multi-depart-ment retail store with 30 employees, all of whom Joe says help make Paul’s what it is.“God has blessed us with good employees at every level, from department managers to cashiers,” he said.
Some of Paul’s Discount’s employees have worked in the store for nearly 30 years.Joe himself worked in his parents’ store while he was in high school and college — and even earlier, he recalled, passing out baby chickens to customers at Easter.
“Customer service is the big thing about Paul’s,” Joe said. “You actually get somebody to ask you if you need help.”That kind of friendly service is what brings customers from Pulaski and surrounding counties — and even, Joe says, from northern Kentucky, south-ern Ohio, and from other points east and west.
Paul Neikirk opened Paul’s Surplus on his ancestors’ land north of Somerset in 1960. In the beginning, the shop — the first discount store in south central Kentucky — occupied only about 1,800 square feet of space.Paul passed away in late 1974. At that time, his brother, Lyle Neikirk, took over management of the business. Lyle retired about 14 years later, leaving the shop in the hands of Paul’s sons, Joe and Randy Neikirk.
Joe continues to manage the store, which now offers more than 20,000 square feet of selling space plus three warehouses, but he says his job has been made easy by those who surround him.“Today, my wife, Jamie, and I run the store. She does human resources, the employees do most everything else, and I handle whatever is left,” he said.
“Our employees are almost self-sufficient.”While the merchandise available at Paul’s is constantly changing, Joe hopes the store’s quality customer service and its atmosphere will keep customers loyal.
“We could never open another Paul’s,” Joe said. “You can’t duplicate the atmosphere of this building.”Joe adds that his employees help create the atmosphere there.
While many things have remained the same at Paul’s throughout the years, the current management is making sure the business keeps current. Paul Neikirk never would have imagined that his little shop would eventually be accessible to millions on the Internet. Now, the business can be found at www.paulsdiscount.com and on Facebook.“That’s part of it nowadays,” Joe said. But he still believes customers appreciate a good, old fashioned brick and mortar shopping experience.
“People still like to come to a store and look at what they’re buying,” he said.Paul’s Discount is located on Ky. 2227, just north of SomerSplash water park. Ky. 2227 is part of the former North U.S. 27, and was once the most highly-traveled road in the county. The store is now a little more out-of-the-way than it once was, but Joe says the change in traffic patterns hasn’t hurt his business.
“Many local people were lost for a while,” Joe recalled. “We were really dead for a couple of weeks. But people find their way. ... It was an incredible risk (to stay in the same location). I thought it would affect us a lot more than it has.”Store hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.