"Sell cheap and tell the truth" was her motto.
A legendary entrepreneur, among Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, she started Nebraska Furniture Mart in the basement of her husband's shop. Sold 80% stake to Berkshire for $55 million in 1983. In that year's annual report, Warren Buffet wrote "I'd rather wrestle grizzlies than compete with Mrs. B and her progeny." (Her grandchildren still run the business).
In 1992, she signed a non-compete agreement at the age of 99 (and eventually retired at 104 - later declared "the official mandatory retirement age" at Berkshire). This is what Buffet wrote in the 1992 annual report:
"I am a moderate in my views about retirement compared to Rose Blumkin, better known as Mrs. B. At 99, she continues to work seven days a week. And about her, I have some particularly good news.
You will remember that after her family sold 80% of Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM) to Berkshire in 1983, Mrs. B continued to be Chairman and run the carpet operation. In 1989, however, she left because of a managerial disagreement and opened up her own operation next door in a large building that she had owned for several years. In her new business, she ran the carpet section but leased out other home-furnishings departments.
At the end of last year, Mrs. B decided to sell her building and land to NFM. She'll continue, however, to run her carpet business at its current location (no sense slowing down just when you're hitting full stride). NFM will set up shop alongside her, in that same building, thereby making a major addition to its furniture business.
I am delighted that Mrs. B has again linked up with us. Her business story has no parallel and I have always been a fan of hers, whether she was a partner or a competitor. But believe me, partner is better.
This time around, Mrs. B graciously offered to sign a non-compete agreement - and I, having been incautious on this point when she was 89, snapped at the deal. Mrs. B belongs in the Guinness Book of World Records on many counts. Signing a non-compete at 99 merely adds one more."