Alton Carroll "A.C." Carlson was not one to give up.
After an arsonist in 1982 burned down his appliance and furniture store in Crystal, he put a message in big block letters on his reader board for passersby to see: "These three remain: faith, hope, and love" (1 Corinthians 13:13).
He would go on to reopen A.C. Carlson in a new location, and the store has now surpassed 60 years as a family-run business.
Carlson died March 16 at age 89. He was remembered as a hardworking businessman with a knack for talking to people and a devotion to his customers and family.
"Whether it was about health issues, business issues or whether he was promoting something, he just never gave up if he thought it was important," said Carolyn Peterson, Carlson's daughter.
Carlson was born and raised during the Great Depression in Center City, Minn., the youngest of seven children.
As a young person, Carlson already had an entrepreneurial spirit. He used to trap muskrats and other animals and sell their pelts. At one point, Carlson also had a newspaper route and would collect and sell cans of angleworms for a nickel.
After he graduated from Chisago Lakes High School, he went on to deliver baked goods in Minneapolis for about five years and then worked selling appliances at a store on W. Broadway.
It was then that he decided to start his own business. He began to sell appliances out of the garage of his Camden neighborhood home and sell machines door to door.
"It was a tough sell," said Dave Carlson, A.C. Carlson's son and the president of A.C. Carlson Appliances. Still, in 1954, he was able to open his first store in Crystal.
Carlson's store carried everything from radios and toasters to mixers and large appliances. Over the next few years as business grew, A.C. Carlson's moved into larger spaces. After the fire, it moved to New Hope.
Carlson was a hard worker whose definition of "working a half day" was being at the store from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., his son said. He retired about a decade ago. His legacy will continue at the store, though, his son said. The store is still closed on Sundays, a choice that his father made.
"That's not easy in the retail world that we are in when Sundays are the biggest days out there," his son said. "That's another thing that spoke volumes to his value system."
Carlson met his wife, Gladys, when she roomed with one of his sisters. They married in 1950 and had four children and 12 grandchildren. The couple were together for 62 years before Gladys Carlson died in 2012. In his later years, A.C. Carlson suffered from Parkinson's disease.
His family described Carlson as a motivated and enthusiastic person who was involved in the community. He was a lifetime member of Toastmasters, an organization that helps people develop public speaking skills. He also was active in the Redeemer Lutheran Church in Robbinsdale and was an avid supporter of the New Hope Community Theater.
He was known for sending out thousands of birthday and anniversary cards, mostly to customers, Dave Carlson said. "He liked talking to people, strangers. He was good at that. He can warm up to people real fast. He had a gift. He could remember names and dates."
Carlson is survived by his children, Dave, Carolyn, Cathy and Cindy; the 12 grandchildren; and other relatives. Services have already been held.