The Department Store and the Quakers

In the early 1950s a well-known department store in Birmingham wanted to extend its premises. Close by this department story in Birmingham was an ideal site. But there was a problem: it belonged to the Quakers, whose Meeting House had been there for well over two hundred years.

Still, why should a bunch of Quakers stand in the way of commerce?

So, the department store wrote to the Quakers, offering to buy the site. Very grandly, they said, “We will give you a very good price for the land. In fact, we’ll send you a blank cheque. Please fill in whatever sum of money you think appropriate and we will honour it.”

Then they sat back and waited. Weeks passed. Finally a letter arrived from the Quakers. It thanked the department store for their generous offer but declined to accept it. “Our Meeting House has been here for almost two hundred and fifty years,” they explained, “much longer than your store. We have no wish to sell our property. However, if YOU would agree to sell YOUR site to us, we are very interested in buying it. We will give you a very good price for it. Just state your selling price and we will honour it.”

The letter was signed ‘Cadburys.’

The department store thought they were dealing with a small, meek congregation of Quakers. Instead they were dealing with the Cadburys’ empire. Cadburys could have bought the department store twenty times over!

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