"Remember that book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? he said. "Everything I know, I learned in the flea markets."
Question: For example?
Answer: It's where the rubber hits the road. When you are going face-to-face with the customer, and you are seeing supply and demand right in front of your face - there's a lot of wisdom to that.
Q: What else?
A: Location, location, location . . . if you had a good spot in the flea market, you could do three times the business.
A: Competition. My whole stand was 3 [shirts] for $5. So I'd have these guys with bullhorns at the table, screaming 3 for $5. One day, my big competitor, him and his father - they actually carried guns. They showed me their guns.
Q: What else did you sell?
A: Hair blowers . . . store returns. We'd plug them into the wall and some of them would catch fire. We bought them for 50 cents and we sold them for $5 - blew them out. But I didn't know anything about product liability. We didn't think what would happen if somebody came by with a scalded head next week.
Q: You opened your first store on Frankford Avenue in Philadelphia.
A: Nobody knew the prices. We didn't have registers. We didn't even have things ticketed. I didn't know any better, because I was in the flea-market business. I was the cashier. I had my stupid little money belt from the flea market that had Pepsi Cola on it and I was stuffing cash in my belt. I had $15,000 stuffed in my pockets. The next week I had a body guard.
Q: What's your day like?
A: I'm not an office person. I can't focus, it's like ADD, so I drive around - I'm a little crazy. I don't always like to go in [the store] because things get to me and maybe I'll close the store.
Q: What gets to you?
A: If I come in and the store's dirty or there's people waiting in line. Everything bothers me. Half the time, I call in from the parking lot and say, 'Hey, you got dirt in the parking lot.' "
Q: Do you drive your employees nuts?
A: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Q: Do you miss the flea market?
A: I think it would be a great retirement. Instead of fishing, go back to the flea market and just like smoke a little pipe or something. I don't smoke, but maybe just sit there. Maybe I'd be a little more relaxed. There is something relaxing about where the rubber hits the road, not worrying about the other obligations.
Title: Founder, chief executive, Forman Mills.
Home: Cherry Hill.
High School: Cherry Hill West.
Family: Wife, Donna; children, Lindsay, 24, Karly, 20, Sydney, 17.
To relax: Jogging on the beach.
To avoid: Golf - "Golf to me is the same like being locked in an office all day. I couldn't take it."
Business: Deep discount retail, mostly apparel.
Revenues: $275 million.
Where: Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Maryland, Illinois, Delaware, Washington .
What's new: Pennsauken store reopened Friday.
History: In 1977, Forman's father lent him $80 to buy shirts to sell at area flea markets. Opened his first stores in 1981 in Frankford and in 1985 in South Philadelphia.
Rick Forman's philosophy: Rat hair in the chocolate. www.inquirer.com/jobbing
Interview questions and answers have been edited for space.