This month, 90-year-old Melba Mebane ended her incredible 74-year career in sales for Dillard’s department store, based in Texas. Astonishingly, Melba did not miss a single day of work or ever call in sick during her lengthy tenure.

Melba’s journey at Dillard’s started in 1949, where she served as an “elevator girl” at the Mayer & Schmidt department store, which Dillard’s took over in 1956. James Saenz, store manager of Dillard’s in Tyler, told Fox News Digital, “Melba sets the tone for everything, every expectation, every customer service quality that we look for in a luxury experience.”

Saenz lauded Melba for her significant contributions to the team, highlighting her ability to coach, teach, and inspire others.

According to Melba, she enjoyed working with “great ladies who love to eat, laugh and cut up,” which includes Ginger Wimbs, her coworker for the past 33 years. Wimbs admires Melba’s honesty, talent with clients, and ability to turn a small sale into a significant one.

Throughout her career, Melba served as a single mother to her son, Terry Mebane, now a financial adviser in Tyler. Terry fondly recalls growing up in Dillard’s and how his mother’s hard work contributed to their life. After starting in the elevator, Melba quickly progressed to the men’s clothing department and finally to cosmetics. Terry recalls his mother’s innovative sales approach, particularly when it came to selling gift baskets.

Melba’s reputation in sales was so outstanding that perfume manufacturers would send her complimentary bottles to encourage her to promote their products. Terry jokingly referred to his mother as the “cosmetic bootlegger” for her fondness for gifting these samples.

Over the years, Melba became a beloved figure in the store, forging close relationships with the Dillard family’s corporate leadership. Terry said his mother served as the store’s heart and often acted as a buffer during store inspections.

Melba’s unyielding work ethic was a source of inspiration for Terry. He described her as a “grinder,” always being the first one in the door and taking the minimal time for lunch, never wanting to miss a sales opportunity. As Melba got older, she was able to adapt her job to her needs, thanks to the kindness of the Dillard family, proving her significant contribution to the company over the years.

In her 70s and 80s, Melba continued to work nearly full-time, contributing four eight-hour days each week. “During the winter, if it was bad weather, I simply took her to work and picked her up so that she didn’t have to drive in snow or rain or anything like that,” her son Terry said.

Terry stated that Melba’s extended tenure significantly benefited Dillard’s. “There is still a generation out there that would come to the counter looking for her,” he explained.

When customers found out she wasn’t present, they would opt to leave rather than accept assistance from someone else, exemplifying Melba’s lasting impact on customer loyalty.

However, at the age of 90, after some health issues resulted in a few weeks off work, Melba decided it was time to retire. “Father Time got the best of her,” Terry said. “She said, ‘I just turned 90, I’m not driving and most of my friends aren’t here anymore.’ Things became more transaction-oriented and it was just different.” Despite being significantly older than her coworkers, Melba had a lasting impact on everyone who got to know her. “Everybody in the mall knew her,” Terry concluded.


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