The Boy Who Bought His School
How a former student bought his school and turned it into VictoryStore.com
From the 1950’s to the 1990’s, HM Perry School served elementary children from Davenport, a river town on the Mississippi in Iowa. In the 1970’s, one particular student, Steve Grubbs, was traversing its hallways learning all the basics. Miss Ellis would teach him to read, Mr. Christman demonstrated the basics of square dance and a proper pull up and Mr. Sharp explained the mysteries of the Solar System as well as some basic chemistry. Of course, learning was done with chalkboards, books (with real paper pages) and of course, the inimitable #2 pencil. It was good. It was a different time.
Changes in demographics ultimately caused the school to close and transfer the remaining students to other buildings - but as they say, when one door closes, another opens. On a September day, 25 years later, Steve took his YMCA flag football team to the school’s grassy field to practice. It was then he noticed a small piece of paper: SEALED BIDS DUE OCTOBER 20TH.
When the bids were opened, Steve Grubbs, the former HM Perry pupil would now be the new owner of his boyhood school.
This story might be entertaining in it’s own right but it doesn’t end there. Steve’s father had been a lifelong teacher in the school district. Even more, during a six year span when Steve served in the Iowa Legislature, he spent four years as Chairman of the House Education Committee. His proudest piece of legislation was a technology school fund that allowed districts to buy computers, connect their buildings to the Internet or use it for other transformational technologies.
But in 2002, the Internet was young and wild and free. And Steve had a young company known as VictoryStore.com.
VictoryStore was the first store on the Internet selling lawn signs to campaigns in 1999. The company started in his basement and then moved to a storage building behind his house. But it wasn’t long before more space was needed and right about that time, Steve took his son’s flag football team to practice on the field at his former elementary school.
But Steve was set on democratizing the creation of yard signs - meaning, that the gatekeepers who forced users to go through them for design services would be upended. In 2003, he introduced the first yard sign design-your-own system. It was very basic, but it worked.
Today, it is much more sophisticated than then, but users now have the ability to choose their colors, designs and fonts and then share with their committee.
All of this is headquartered from the teacher’s lounge at HM Perry Elementary. “People always assume I would have the principal’s office, but the teacher’s lounge had a private bathroom and that one factor made the difference,” said Steve.
The first printing room was a combination of the 5th and 6th grade classrooms. Accounting is in first grade while sales reps and designers sit in the two 2nd grade classrooms. The gym? Well, Steve raised the hoops to 10’ and his wife, Kelli, gave him a sport court for his birthday. Since 2002, Steve has played more than 20,000 games of pickup basketball in the gym.
“I like the fact that it’s an elementary size gym...it would get very tiring running up and down a high school gym!”
Customers are always welcome to come by and visit the facility. “We love to give tours of VictoryStore.com. Since our founding we have added three additional buildings on the upper and lower grade playgrounds.”
But most parts of the original school are still in place. The lockers still adorn the hallways, the lunch tables still pull out of the wall in the gym and the flagpole still stands just outside the door
The former school library is now a large conference room and coffee shop.
At the end of the day, we all know a school is not a building, but rather the students, teachers and curriculum that come together in their individual parts to make up the whole. Today, the Victory Center no longer acts as a school building for almost 300 students, but rather, an incubator for VictoryStore.com and three other companies Steve has founded and now houses in his former elementary school.
“I want to thank my school teachers who gave me the foundation for my American dream that I live today. Without a solid education, I would never have had the chance to own my school.”
Copyright VictoryStore, Inc. 2019