In 1956, Wilma and Clifton Elmo Cleek opened Cleek’s Appliance and Food Service in a rented corner of Wilson’s Wholesale Meat Company. Cleek’s sold Amana freezers filled with frozen meat by arranging financing thru a local bank. In 1959, Cleek’s moved to 1000 W. Broadway and began offering a full line of appliances and televisions as well.
An avid Tiger football fan, Missouri ‘Mo as he was known, in 1962 began predicting the scores of M.U. games with an ad in the paper as well as a large banner on his store’s windows. An eternal optimist, ‘Mo always picked the Tigers to win and with remarkable accuracy. His son John worked in the store from the time he was 15, cleaning, helping on deliveries, even selling. By the time he was 18, he was an accomplished salesman and knew he wanted to work in the family business. Father and son often sat up until midnight talking about business and life in general. Elmo Cleek only had 2 rules; 1) never say anything you have to remember and 2) get bigger, get better, or get out. After working 30-35 hours per week to pay for college, John graduated from M.U. in May, 1972 with a degree in business and became the manager at Cleek’s Appliance.
On August 15, 1973 Cleek’s moved to a 6,000 sq. ft. remodeled grocery store at the corner of W. Worley and W. Boulevard and added a complete carpet showroom. Now known as Cleek’s Appliance and Carpet the future looked bright. Part of the game plan was for “Tiger” John to start making his predictions next to his dad’s the following season. But tragically, on November 19, 1973 Elmo Cleek was killed in a small plane crash coming back from the Iowa State football game. Suddenly, at the age of 23, John had lost his father, his boss, and his best friend. Married, with a 2 ½ year old son, John knew he had to pull himself together and support his family including his mother and 12 year old sister. Relying on those late night sessions with his dad, John kept the business going and continued the tradition of predicting M.U. football games. But interest rates were high and it was hard to get financing for his customers, so in 1976 John added rent-to-own to his offerings. By 1987, business was stagnant and John knew he had to make some serious changes. His greatest strength had always been customer service which is the #1 criteria in rent-to-own. So in August, 1987 he decided to get out of retail and operate as Cleek’s Rent-To-Own, with multiple locations. His son, Tiger John Jr. worked in the business during the summers while in high school and then part-time to help pay his own way thru M.U. graduating in December of 1993. By then Cleek’s Rent-To-Own had 3 stores with more on the horizon. Working side-by-side, father and son built the chain to 9 stores by the end of 2006 in 8 cities.
But a new competitor, Aaron’s, started making great strides in some of Cleek’s markets and once again, something needed to change. Aaron’s quickly turned into one of Cleek’s biggest competitors, and in 2008 Aaron’s approached Cleek’s about becoming franchisees. It was a tough decision but the superior buying power, being able to offer customers better selection at a better price, improved training for employees, and not having to compete with Aaron’s were just too good to pass up. On December 1, 2008 Cleek’s became Aaron’s.
Cleek’s, our family serving your family since 1956, now proud to be Aaron’s!