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'He’s a piece of Little Rock history': Beloved 'Broom Man' dies at 84

By Gavin Lesnick

This article was published June 19, 2017 at 2:17 p.m.

melvin-pickens-is-shown-in-this-2013-file-photo

Melvin Pickens is shown in this 2013 file photo

A man whose dedication to selling brooms in Little Rock's Heights neighborhood earned him national attention and legions of customers in his adopted hometown has died.

Melvin Pickens, 84, died Sunday night at a Little Rock nursing home after health issues in recent years slowed — but didn't stop — his longtime business model. Over the course of several decades, Pickens would buy up brooms from Little Rock Broom Works and then sell them to individuals for $10 apiece at Shipley Donuts, Ozark Country Breakfast, Cheers in the Heights, Terry's Finer Foods and other spots. He was affectionately nicknamed the "Broom Man."

Everette Hatcher, president of Little Rock Broom Works, first met Pickens when Hatcher started working at the company in 1983. He still remembers an encounter around that same time at the donut stand when Pickens tried to sell him a broom for $6.

"I said, 'I’m the one that sold it to you for a dollar fifty,'" Hatcher said with a laugh. "And he was like ‘keep it down!’"

Back then, Pickens would go to the Little Rock broom factory each afternoon and buy up discounted models that had minor scratches or other blemishes and then take them to the Heights, where he would offer them for sale.

The key to his success, in part, was an attitude that won over his customers, Hatcher said.

"Melvin was so positive," he said. "Anytime you talked to him. His wife had passed away; he had cancer; he suffered from partial blindness. But he was always positive. It’s amazing to me."

Several years ago, Pickens had a stroke, Hatcher said, and that slowed him down and stopped him from carrying his inventory over his shoulder. But his caretaker would still come by and pick up brooms, and they'd set up at some of his usual locations in the Heights and offer them for sale. More recently, Pickens was living in a rehabilitation center in midtown Little Rock, Hatcher said.

In 2013, Pickens was profiled on the national CBS Evening News, which featured him in its "On the Road" series and noted he'd been selling brooms since around 1950. That was about the time he moved to Little Rock, Hatcher said.

"You can't quit," Melvin, then 81, told the CBS reporter. "A quitter never wins and a winner never quits, you know."

Jill Hatcher, Everette Hatcher's wife, met Pickens for the first time at the Shipley Donuts shop when she was in junior high school. And she would come to know him again later in life after she married his supplier.

It was easy to see why he found success in his chosen trade, Jill Hatcher said.

"I think the reason that everybody bought brooms from Melvin is really the best reason of all: He was very lovable," she said. "I enjoyed seeing him, all my friends bought brooms from him, and half my friends don’t even use brooms. ... He’s a piece of Little Rock history. He really is."

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Comments on: 'He’s a piece of Little Rock history': Beloved 'Broom Man' dies at 84

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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 total comments

Tinascott1 says... June 19, 2017 at 2:50 p.m.

You will truly be missed. I remember driving to Little Rock just to get some brooms and they would be sticking out of the windows like we had fishing poles. You didn't have a broom if you didn't get a broom from him. RIL/RIP Mr. Pickens we love you.

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susanc52 says... June 19, 2017 at 4:23 p.m.

I have known Melvin forever it seems. I thought he passed long ago. This is a sad day.
Jim Yoder

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BetterSkier says... June 19, 2017 at 4:54 p.m.

How sad. I met him once years ago. I don't remember now if I bought a broom or not, but I do remember his positive attitude. So long Mr. Pickens.

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PopulistMom says... June 19, 2017 at 5:06 p.m.

Oh, I remember him. Such a nice man.

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DEE672 says... June 19, 2017 at 5:47 p.m.

I remember him well. He hung out at the Hillcrest PO where I got my mail every day for years. He lived a long and useful life.

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mememe2 says... June 20, 2017 at 7:56 a.m.

The Heights won't be the same without him. Rest well Mr. Pickens.

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TimberTopper says... June 20, 2017 at 8:33 a.m.

May we all aspire to a life as well spent! RIP

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