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Opinion
Adrian Wooldridge

The 1970s Had a Big Bright Side, Too

For all the decade’s turmoil, it was also a time of commercial and intellectual innovation and resilience.

One of the 1970s’ many innovations: Intel’s 8080 microprocessor.

One of the 1970s’ many innovations: Intel’s 8080 microprocessor.

Photographer: Science & Society Picture Library/Getty Images

In 1974, Ken Langone formed a venture capital company, Invemed, and started scouting for opportunities. As the company’s name suggests, he initially focused on healthcare, but couldn’t shake off the idea of a giant opportunity in home improvement. Everybody liked to improve their homes, not least Langone himself, who had grown up in poverty, but the home-improvement sector was archaic and fragmented — lots of mom-and-pop stores with high prices and limited inventories. Why not create well-organized superstores that could provide everything you need at everyday low prices?

Langone spent months in the fruitless search for people who shared his vision before striking up a relationship with Arthur Blank and Bernard Marcus. They planned their operations meticulously, coming up with the name Home Depot for their new venture. In 1979 the three opened their first two stores in Atlanta — high-ceilinged warehouses covering 55,000-75,000 square feet — and waited for the customers to come. Two years later they went public.