Business community loses a landmark

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Mike Reynolds has been fixture in Centertown for seven decades

By John Barnhart

    The Bedford business community lost a landmark.

    It wasn’t a building—it was a person. Thomas Edwin “Mike” Reynolds died on Aug. 12.
    Reynolds was born in Bedford on May 20, 1913, and went to elementary school in “Old Yellow.” It wasn’t old back then, it was only one year older than Mike. It was a nice, modern school building when he was child. As a high school student, Reynolds had a part time job. S. H. Bibb owned a store on North Bridge street and Reynolds fetched coal from the store’s basement and brought it up for the store’s heating stoves. He graduated in 1932.
    Three years later, without a college degree, Mike and two partners did something that showed they were good businessmen. It was Jan. 1, 1935, during the depth of the Great Depression, and these young men opened People’s Furniture. They  were  successful and  Mike  later bought out his partners.
    Actually, the store already existed as a satellite of a store in Richmond. Reynolds and his partners decided that they were doing all the work, so they ought to get the profit, so they bought the place. Reynolds’ share of the purchase price was $2,000 and a friend of his father loaned him the money.
    At that time, their merchandise consisted of coal/wood fired ranges, which they bought by the railroad car load, kitchen cabinets and ice boxes. These were insulated wooden boxes in which a block of ice was placed. They were used to keep perishable foods cool back in the days when a lot of people didn’t have refrigerators.
    Reynolds remained involved with the store almost all his life. Up until a few years ago he would still put in a ceremonial appearance at the store, chatting with customers.
    “He was a people person, he loved people,” commented Bill May, who said that he and Reynolds had been partners for 14 years.
    May also said that Reynolds was somebody who would do good for others without calling attention to himself.
    “He did a lot of good for a lot of people that nobody knows about,” May said.
    May called Reynolds the last true philanthropist in Bedford.
    “Mike was private about it, he never discussed or bragged about it,” said May.
    Reynolds was involved with his fellow downtown businessmen and May said that, in an earlier day, they liked to pull pranks on each other. One time he had a friendly bet with a restaurant owner. Reynolds lost the bet and paid it with $20 worth of pennies.
    In later years he and old friends got together in the mornings for what they called the “coffee club.”
    “It should have been called the ‘gossip club.’” May commented.
    Reynolds remained mentally sharp.
    “I always laughed because he could add faster in his head than I could on a calculator,” May said.
    Reynolds was active in the Bedford Host Lions Club and was the club’s last surviving charter member.
    “I can remember him going down and selling Christmas trees when he was in his 90s,” May said.
    According to May, Reynolds was famous for never being seen without a starched white shirt and tie.
    “He would go up and walk on the treadmill [at the YMCA] and exercise in a suit and wingtip shoes,” May said.
    May added that Reynolds was always supportive of his church, Main Street United Methodist.
    Rebecca Mays was one of Reynolds’ neighbors.
    “They were lovely neighbors,” she said of Mike and his wife, Dorothy.
    “He loved his farm land,” she added.
    That’s Reynolds Cattle Farm.
    “We loved living across the street from them,” said Mays, who also noted that Mike Reynolds always appeared in a starched white shirt.
    Kathy McGary, who serves on Bedford Main Street’s board of directors, said that they have established a committee to hold a Centerfest Gala before the big Saturday street fair in September. The Gala committee plans to honor people who have made major contributions to Bedford’s centertown.
    “He [Mike Reynolds] was one of the people we were talking about giving the [first] award to,” McGary said.