Dennis Shelley, a staple at the Eufaula Tribune since the end of the last millennium, will no longer be using his big smile and kindness to sell ads after next week.
The smile and kindness will still be there, but Shelley is headed into retirement.
Shelley came to the Tribune in June 1999. He had been at Lance Corporation where he was the top sales person for six consecutive years. Fifty-two at the time, he told his wife, Rhonda, it was time he leave the trucks and find a more suitable job. Selling cars was not an option, he thought, so through a connection at a staffing agency he learned that the Tribune needed a sales person.
“I talked to Ann and Jack Smith and was hired,” Shelley said.
Betty Roland was the sales manager when Shelley began at the Tribune. When she left around 2004, Shelley stepped into that role and has been here ever since.
A big concern for Shelley was inability to draw when it came to ideas for ads.
“I told Jack the best I could do was stick people,” Shelley said. “But, we had an artist, Angela Hinson, who if you gave her an idea she could make it happen.”
Times were different then as Shelley said Eufaula enjoyed three automotive dealerships.
“I was a little worried about newspaper sales because you have no product in hand like some places,” he said. “It turned out to be probably the easiest thing I ever sold. I sold to everybody I knew. If I saw a guy pushing a lawnmower in someone’s yard and he had a sign on his truck I sold him an ad.”
In 2005, Shelley won Best Single Ad first place in the Alabama Press Association contest for one he did for Gilmore Chevrolet. Inside Automotive interviewed him following the ad and in 2008 it was published again on the GM website.
One of the memories Shelley recalled was Jack Smith’s love for taking pictures. Once, a small tornado had come through north of Eufaula. Smith and Shelley jumped in Shelley’s truck and rode to the scene. Shelley held the umbrella for Smith as he took pictures, but soon Shelley grew concerned of the constant lightning.
“I finally just put it down and said ‘I’m getting in the truck,’” Shelley said. “I knew that was the only way he would get back in.”
Shelley has worked with eight different sales reps and it several times was by himself. He has also been through four ownership changes at the newspaper.
He recalled Cindy Pastre, a longtime office manager at the Tribune, as being his “right-hand person. Jack always called her ‘Sarge.’ She grew up a military brat.”
“When I first started I had an old desk and a straight chair and the telephone only worked at times because it had a short in it,” Shelley said. “I told Jack, ‘First of all, I need to have a good chair and secondly we need to get a decent phone system so I can do sales.’
“The first time I developed pictures nothing came out. We went to digital and I took 13 pictures of a woman and the first 13 tries she had her eyes closed. On the 14th time, I told her I was going to count to three and it finally worked.”
In 2005, Shelley attended real estate school while still selling ads for the paper.
He had worked out of the Opelika/Auburn district for Lance Corp., but enjoyed being around his family: wife, Rhonda, whom he has been married to for 52 years; sons, Chris and Chad; and daughter, Erin Shelley Dykes. He enjoys several grandchildren ranging in age from 2 to 25.
“I’m going to get up in the morning and have to do nothing,” Shelley said. “I’d like to get up and do what I want to do. I’ve been working since I was 16. I’m probably not ever going to wear a watch again except on Sundays.
“I know I’m gonna miss (the Tribune) and being with people every day. I want people to know how much I appreciate everyone who supported me all these years. A lot of customers are now really good friends. It’s been good for both of us. They supported my family and I helped sell their product.”
Crystal Hill will be stepping into Shelley’s role as sales manager. “I’ve been working with her the last several months,” he said. “Due to current circumstances, she and I can’t get out and introduce her to everyone. I know when all of this is over she will be out to visit everyone.”