Car lights trail past the Winner Building at 32 W. State St., Sharon. The site, a prominent high-rise building with fuchsia awnings, houses a women's fashion store. It once was the popular department store The Sharon Store.
By Jennifer Hall Herald Staff Writer
James E. Winner Jr. measures his success not in how much money he makes annually, but on how much money he gives away.
The chairman of Sharon-based Winner International, the holding company for a number of Winner enterprises, practices tithing, where 10 percent of the company's profits are turned over to charity.
He said he believes that directly reflects on the success of his business.
When the Sharon man took his multimillion-dollar business public years ago, the profits declined, Winner said. By taking the company public, the tithing stopped because it's not an accepted practice. Winner said he felt that when the tithing stopped, the profits fell and they are related.
``I want to be doggone sure that when I take the last step in life, and I believe there is one more step, that I'm hearing what I want,'' he said. ``And what I want to hear is, `Well done oh great servant.' ''
Winner decided to again make the company private and returned to the practice of tithing. Without being specific, he said the profits returned to where they should be.
Ten percent of the profits from Winner International are funneled into the Winner Foundation with the primary goal of helping kids continue their education.
Winner said his views on the importance of tithing and his value system have changed over the years. He looks at life from the beginning to the end and he sees the direction he would like his life to be going at age 67.
``I'm a lot closer to the end than I am the beginning,'' he said.
With each passing day, the Winner name becomes more and more synonymous with projects in Mercer County. Winner knows some people call it an ego trip, but he refers to it as keeping his family accountable for the area's future.
``I know that I'm putting the responsibility on my kids and grandchildren,'' he said. ``Every time my name goes up on something I, and they, have the responsibility to live up to that name. I'm passionate about what I do.''
He doesn't believe his children should have ``silver spoons'' in their mouths.
``I have joys in life and it's not buying cars and having things. But it's the things I do with people and for people that really means something.''
James E. Winner Jr.
All of the profits from The Winner, the off-price fashion store on West State Street, also go to charity, while each Winner family member donates 10 percent of his paycheck to Covenant Presbyterian Church, Sharon.
``I've provided for the education of my grandchildren for as far as I can see,'' he said. ``I firmly believe in providing for a debt-free education, but beyond that I don't want them to scratch and scrape but I want them to be builders.''
Winner said any money left over from the educational plans go to his charity, The Winner Foundation.
He hopes to pass on his passion for charity to not only his family, but to the children of the Shenango Valley.
And as he acquires more businesses and increases the profit margin, Winner said his lifestyle has not changed.
``I have joys in life and it's not buying cars and having things,'' he said. ``But it's the things I do with people and for people that really means something.''
He talked about conversations he has with Sister Bonita Repasky, formerly of the Prince of Peace Center in Farrell.
``Her letters always seem to come when I need it,'' he said as he smiled fondly remembering the notes. ``And one had a P.S. on the bottom and it said, `Remember when faced with difficult times, remember the decision Jesus Christ makes.' That just puts everything in perspective and lets me know I'm on the right track.''
He hopes he is setting that track for his children. While he doesn't feel it's the right time to retire, he does see himself taking it easier.
When Winner decides to call it quits, he plans to spend a majority of his time in Florida while flying back to the Shenango Valley for business.
His permanent address is in Florida, but he also lives at his hotel, Tara, in Clark.
``I love Sharon but I want to retire to Florida. My family will still be here and I want to make sure they stay here.''