GOLDEN YEARS

BUSINESS Ever wondei why all those helpful salespeople at Elliott’s Hardware smile so contentedly even on the gloomiest days? Perhaps they’re pondering their eventual retirements, which can indeed be beatific occasions thanks to the 15 percent slice of their gross salaries that automatically goes into the company’s employee stock ownership program.

Here’s a case in point. Last year the Maple Avenue store’s 53-year-old floor sales manager, who chooses to remain anonymous, hung up his hat with a whopping $1.3 million in his retirement account. He got 20 percent of the cash at the time and will reap the rest over the next 10 years. And that’s not all. Over the years he had already received (by paying early withdrawal penalties) $400,000 from the fund. That could buy a lot of nuts and bolts-among other possibilities-for the man, who began his 35-year career at Elli-ott’s as janitor and handyman. He has only a fifth-grade education.

Although no one else has topped the million dollar mark, 40 other employees did receive a total of $895,865 in retirement pay ir the fiscal year ending last February. It makes one wonder who thought of such generous benefits in the first place.

The answer; the employees themselves, who have owned the company since 1977. That’s when founder JERRE ELLIOTT, fearing that inheritance taxes would eventually wipe out the business, decided to sell to his employees. When he did, funds from an existing profit-sharing plan were transferred into workers’ retirement. They’ve been happy stock-holders ever since.

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