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Method Behind The Mania
This paunchy gnome with the tuft of curly white hair, this earthy, cussing son of Shrewsbury, this world-traveling millionaire in the cowboy hat who still works hard at selling antifreeze and ladies' dresses and eggs and lawnmowers, this . . . Spag . . . was asked about business. Sales, profit margins, productivity.
"Who the hell knows," he kept grumbling. "The only thing that means anything to me is paying the bills on time." Then, in what may have been exasperation, he delivered a synopsis of the rules of his retail business. The synopsis was terse, and the core was terser still: "Our whole criteria is, 'HOly JEEzis, we owe this much money?'"
Anthony A. Borgatti Jr. is the owner and treasurer (his wife, Olive Lutz Borgatti, is president) of Spag's Supply Inc., a 52-year-old discount store on Route 9 in Shrewsbury, Mass., just over the bridge from Worcester. Anthony A. Borgatti Jr., all 5 feet 6 of him, is also Spag. "Wow, there's really a Mr. Spag!" kids shout when they see the grinning gnome in the cowboy hat and the khaki shirt and pants. They know him from his replica on the front of the store; one eye eternally winks at Route 9. His real eyes as often as not are flicking over the merchandise in Spag's Supply, counting the cans of blue latex--did they order too much?
Hundreds of thousands of people have ambled or elbowed or stumbled their way through Spag's cramped aisles. They find canned tuna fish at this counter, faucet fixtures in that bin, and, craning upward, they see canoes and brass beds hanging from the ceiling. They spend about $70 million a year there.
to the regular customers, whose numbers, as they say, are legion, this is the place for bargains and for fun. Spag's isn't just shopping; it's unique; it's an expedition. "It's a shopping experience that can't be beat," trumpeted William J. Short, president of the Worcester Area Chamber of Commerce.
But to a newcomer . . . help! What is this? Chaos. Madness. A small, old-time general store turned into a sprawling higgledy-piggledy mishmash of merchandise. The ceilings are high, and the aisles are like canyons that stretch on and on. There seems no rhyme or reason to the variety or layout of the merchandise on the shelves and in the bins and on the floor. Deadbolt locks are …