We’d like to honor and thank George Bethurem for 42 years of service in the industry! As an Account Manager at MacPherson’s, George has touched the lives of so many of our customers, friends, and colleagues. He officially retired on May 21st, 2021, the anniversary of his 42nd year. Learn more about George’s experiences in the industry in an Art Dog interview from 2019, and read on for some of his favorite memories during his time at MacPherson’s!
How has the industry changed throughout your career?
“The biggest change by far was the internet. That changed everything. It changed the way people did their job, the way stores operated, and the products that they sold. For example, in the graphic arts world, everything was previously hand done. Things like dry transfer lettering disappeared overnight.
I should say our industry as a whole pretty much remains the same, simply because we focus on creative supplies that anybody can use; paint brushes, surfaces, paint, children’s products, craft products, that’s never going to go away.
But the internet was the number one change that happened. And it wasn’t just in our industry, it was in everything. And that’s just the way it is. It’s life, things change.
A lot of us have been around for a long time and we still remember the days before cell phones when we would be out in the field. We would have to go look for a payphone when we needed to make a phone call. That’s the way it was in those days, you know? I even remember when orders were handwritten. We didn’t even have a computer. But that was a long time ago. Things happen for the better and the internet has definitely made life easier for most people.”
What are some good memories from your career that stand out?
“It’s the people I associated with and the people I worked with. Both at MacPherson’s and my customers. I was lucky to have the Bay Area as my territory all these years and we worked with some great customers and vendors.
Every year, there would be a big trade show and the Namta show. Everyone would get together and you’d see everybody in the industry at those shows. It was like a big family. And that’s really what I cherish the most, those relationships. Some of them are still going and they will probably go on forever. People have come and gone, stores have come and gone, but you can’t substitute the people that I worked with over the years. That’s a fantastic thing to remember.”
Do you have any words of wisdom for those that are still in the industry?
“That’s a good question. I would say keep the traditions going. Keep the ball rolling with the traditions in our industry. We work with companies that go back to the 1500s. Especially the European companies that go back that far. They do a lot to make people aware of their history and that they’ve been around for a long time. I think all that’s important.
We can even look back to the caveman days where people took sticks and scratched them on the walls of a cave. Well, that hasn’t changed. Believe it or not, the same kind of sticks that they use are probably the same things art students are using in college. And we call them charcoal sticks. That’s part of the history of art supplies.
The more you work at a job like this, the more you learn about the traditions. The art supply industry is very unique. There’s not a lot of industries out there that go back to the 1500s. We can recall when paper, paint, and paintbrushes started being made. And I think that shouldn’t go away. These things should always be in our minds. People in this industry, and I’m sure they are, need to carry these traditions on.”
What values does MacPherson’s have that made you want to stay with the company for such a long time?
“Well, I think just being the number one company in our industry. We were always the top dog when it came to the distribution of art materials in the United States. And it was great to work for a company that was in that position and stayed in that position. We did the right things over the years. There were ups and downs but this company has made some great strides forward over the years.
We’ve had a lot of challenges, going back to my beginnings in our move to Emeryville, moving the warehouses away from the Bay Area to Reno and Atlanta, and buying out other companies. Believe me, this company’s had challenges and a lot of competition. But MacPherson’s has remained on top through all these years. And really, I couldn’t have worked for anyone else.
Every job has its challenges. Let’s face it. And you’re going to get along with people the best you can. There’s also going to be those people you’re not going to get on with. But for the most part, I think that MacPherson’s has been all about the people that have worked for our company, and how good a job they did to keep us on top.”
Post MacPherson’s Plans
What do you plan to do during your retirement?
“My number one priority is to get my hip well. I’m going to decompress for about two months, think about things, and reflect. By mid-to end-of-July, I’ll make some decisions as to what to do. I’m a big music lover. I’m anxious to get back into seeing live music.
Whether it’s the Freight and Salvage over in Berkeley, some big event in San Francisco, or a small club, I’m a big fan of live music of all kinds. And so I plan on continuing to do that. It’ll be a little less stressful because I can do it without having to think about my emails and my job. But that along with catching up on reading and a lot of projects that have piled up at home.
I also have a big family now. I have three daughters, five granddaughters, my wife, my dog, and my cat. My granddaughters who are pretty young keep me busy. I’ll be spending more time with them hopefully.
I’ll also be paying visits to stores again. We’ve been shut off for so long and when things reopen, it’ll be a really nice thing to be able to go into a bookstore, cafe or any kind of a business. I think people realized how much of a loss it was to not have those things. When something’s taken away from you, you realize how important it is. And so I’m just looking forward to getting back to normal.”
Are there any bands or musical groups in particular that you’re looking forward to seeing?
“I like such a wide variety of music, but jazz from the 1920s and 30s is really my favorite. You can go and see it live again because young people have revived this kind of music. And a couple of years ago, I actually bought a 1919 Victrola record player, one of the old windup models. I’m a big fan of nostalgia. But it’s still great to see some of the young people now.
I’m a fan of music by Pokey LaFarge, who is originally from St. Louis. I’ve seen him a couple of times live. And he’s a young guy. He’s an original, he’s sort of revived the old-time music.
There have been some other groups I’ve seen that are bringing back the Old Brass Band sounds. It’s great to see that music come back. So if I hear of anybody that I think sounds unique, I’m going to go see them.
I’ve been to Yoshi’s in Jack London Square in Oakland many, many times. I’ve seen some great performances there, both old guys and young guys. My wife and I used to see a lot of African music. You can call it Afro pop music. Most of the countries in Africa have had incredible music coming out of them forever. It’s just amazing music. A lot of those groups ended up at Yoshis or Freight and Salvage. We’re lucky in the Bay Area because we’re able to go see these groups perform.
I actually go to an accordion festival every August in Cotati. It’s pretty amazing that a little town like that has transformed into this mecca for accordion players from all over the world.”
Any final comments you’d like to add before we sign off?
“Well, again, I just want to reiterate that as I look back over my career, it’s all about the people. To do this job, you have to be a people person. The relationships that I formed have been the most important thing, with customers, with vendors, and with people at MacPherson’s that I’ve worked with over the years. And that’s why I stuck around for so long.
Our management at MacPherson’s has made sure that the employees are taken care of. We’re an employee-owned company and I think the employees are the most important thing. That needs to carry on forever. I think there needs to be good times outside of work also. Anything that a company can do to get people together and enjoy other things in life, I think that’s important too.
I have a lot of years left hopefully to enjoy life. So that’s the goal. Stay around as long as you can and enjoy yourself while you’re doing it.”
George’s 42 years in the industry is truly admirable. It was great chatting with him about some of his career reflections. We appreciate all he has done for MacPherson’s and wish him the best in his retirement!
Who’s Who celebrates members of our industry community who are doing an incredible job. If you would like to nominate someone for a Who’s Who feature, please email us at artdogblog (@) macphersonart.com with their name, position, company, and a short description of why you would like to nominate them.