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The next step was waiting on customers when other people in the store were busy. While still too small to see over the counter, J.M. managed to wait on trade by kicking a box around to stand on. Many a customer stopping at an apparently deserted counter was surprised to find a little red-head popping up in front of them with a pleasant, "May I help you?"

Just prior to the turn of the century, J.M returned to Kingston where he and three of his older brothers opened a dry goods and grocery store known as "McDonalds". He was responsible for buying all the groceries while helping to buy dry goods and shoes. The McDonald brothers operated their store in Kingston for several years. During this period they bought a shoe store in Maryville, Missouri. After operating them separately for some time, they moved the shoe stock to Kingston. In 1902, having outgrown Kingston, a community of only a few hundred people, the McDonald boys moved their store to Council Grove, Kansas. Two years later, the brothers traded this store for a farm in southwest Missouri.

In April, 1905, following his calling, J.M. went to Kemmerer, Wyoming to assist J.C. Penney in operating his first store. Neither dreamed that they were launching what was to become a chain of more than 1,700 stores in the 1950's.