Submitted by Don Parker
Don Shaw was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia on Feb 19, 1930. His father was a grocer, so Don grew up helping Dad after school with groceries, fish, chicken and meats. The family home was diagonally across the street from the store.
They attended the Presbyterian Church. Don’s father was an Elder there for 55 years. Don’s years were stable and happy. He graduated from Dalhousie University with a degree in Business. His first job was the Hudson Bay Company. He worked in offices in York, Saskatchewan, and in stores in Alberta and Ontario. The company’s purpose, as I understand it, was to train people to be efficient store managers.
In 1955, Don immigrated to the United States. He had a job offer from a close friend who was a Maytag domestic wholesale distributor. They also had a small vending machine group selling appliance parts. Don ran that section for two years.
In 1958 the coin laundry business hit the market big time and Don’s group was in the thick of it. He sold the first four Maytag coin operated stores in the US. One is Maine, one in New Hampshire, one in Massachusetts and another in Rhode Island. The buyers were all private investors whom, I’d guess, have prospered greatly since then.
Next, the concept of coin operated laundries hit the apartments industry. Coin laundries were added to thousands of apartments. Don’s company called themselves “route operators.” They not only were dominant in the apartment boom, but also sold to universities, military bases, YMCA’s and virtually any place where many people slept.
Thirty-six years later, Don retired. His company, Mac-Gray, still flourishes. They operate in 43 states, have 88,000 laundries and are traded on the NY stock exchange.
It was 1995 when retired and moved to the Plantation on Amelia Island where this man has become such a positive addition to our island. I asked him why he built the attractive Shaw Building and opened Book Plus? “To Convince people that knowledge is power.” He said.
This man has no intentions of ever letting his mind be inactive. When Don left home in 1950, his Mother gave him a small Bible with Philippians Chapter 4, verse 8 were highlighted. Don told me it said, basically, “Whatsoever things are just, lovely, pure and right – think on these things.” He is still guided and motivated by these words and remembering his Mother’s advice.
And there was another revelation from which we all benefit. One of Don’s business accounts had been the Harvard Business School, where he was introduced to a book called “innovation in Marketing.” As uninspiring as this title sounds to me, it literally changed Don’s life. His mind imploded. He became obsessed with the value of education. He says it was so strange; he was “born again.” That is when he became determined to show people that knowledge is power. The result for us was Books Plus, still a delightful and privately owned book store in downtown Fernandina.
In Don’s 13 years owning Books Plus, he published 12 books and introduced hundreds of us to quality reading. Don was the first sponsor of the Amelia Island Book Festival and has been granted an honorary Board membership for life.
Since living here, Don has owned a total of 16 buildings. He still has strong faith in our town and our island. His vision, morality and high ethical values continue to enrich us all.
Editor’s Note: One of the founders of the Amelia Island Book Festival, Don Parker is a poet, writer, and author. Parker dedicates this series to introduce some of the many bright, capable and caring people who have help make Fernandina Beach and Amelia Island such a wonderful and exciting place to live. We thank Don for his contribution to the Fernandina Observer.
September 18, 2013 7:28 a.m.