Carlie C. McLamb Sr., who along with his wife started out with a single grocery store so tiny it didn't have a name and built it into the Carlie C’s IGA regional chain, died Saturday at WakeMed hospital in Raleigh after a lengthy illness.
McLamb, of Dunn, was 78.
“It’s a straightforward success story. Hard-working family,” said Raleigh attorney Benjamin N. Thompson, whose law firm represents Carlie C’s. Today Carlie C’s has 17 stores, including three in the Triangle in Durham, Garner and Raleigh.
Even with all of his success, Thompson said, McLamb remained the same down-to-earth person that he was when he was starting out in the grocery business.
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Born Jan. 15, 1937 in Johnston County, McLamb changed tires and his wife, Joyce McLamb, worked at a mill before they scratched their entrepreneurial itch and opened their first grocery store in Johnston County in 1961. A year later they moved the store just outside of Dunn.
The McLambs operated as a team. At the outset, Carlie McLamb ran the meat department and his wife ran the front of the store.
“They were partners in business and partners in life,” said their son, Mack McLamb, president of the privately owned chain, which is based in Dunn.
It wasn’t until 1979 that they expanded to a second store, but that led to a series of additional store openings, according to the chain’s website. In the 1980s the chain joined the Independent Grocers Affiliate and started selling IGA products.
Carlie McLamb had an intense work ethic and believed in continuous improvement.
“His saying to me was that, Mack, from 8 to 5 you survive and before 8 and after 5 you accumulate,” Mack McLamb said.
Carlie McLamb also “studied the industry. ... He was always an avid learner and had an attitude of wanting to make things better and improve things,” Mack McLamb said.
Carlie McLamb’s influence endured even after he started pulling back from day-to-day operations, which he did gradually after Mack McLamb was named president in 2009.
Mack McLamb recalled in a 2013 interview that, when he was a small boy, his father purchased 10 acres of land. After it was officially a done deal, the farmer came back saying he hadn’t realized he would lose his tobacco allotment along with the sale.
Though the farmer didn’t have any legal recourse, Carlie McLamb returned half of the allotment to the farmer.
“I thought at the time it was weakness,” Mack McLamb said. “It was only as I got older that I appreciated what he’d done. He was trying to do the right thing.”
Carlie McLamb served on the boards of numerous civic and charitable organizations. He was a member of Campbell University’s board of trustees and was a founding member and director of two banks based in Dunn, Standard Bank and New Century Bank.
“He was a person of very few words but, when he spoke, people listened because he had something valuable to contribute,” said Thompson, who is chairman of Campbell’s board of trustees.
“People from both the profit sector and non-profit sector savored him and called upon him for guidance and assistance,” said Oscar Harris, the mayor of Dunn and a long-time friend of McLamb’s.
McLamb also had a sense of humor and enjoyed telling about getting mail addressed to “Charlie C’s IGA.”
“That really kind of tickled him,” Harris said.
McLamb is survived by Joyce Strickland McLamb, his wife of 60 years; two daughters, Toni Ann Strickland and husband Buddy Strickland and Carla Sue Lubbers and husband Dale Lubbers; son Carlie C. “Mack” McLamb Jr. and wife Zada Register McLamb; seven grandchildren; twelve great grandchildren; mother, Ada Pearl McLamb; sisters Ruthlene Lee and Ettie Mae Blackmon; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A funeral service has been scheduled for Tuesday at 11 a.m. at Butler Chapel at Campbell University.