Michigan Retailers Foundation gets 25th scholarship

Joyce and W. Bruce Rogers

W. Bruce Rogers is a longtime community business leader and philanthropist in the Traverse City area, and now he adds another cause: He and his wife have established the W. Bruce and Joyce M. Rogers Legacy Scholarship as part of the Michigan Retailers Foundation.

The scholarship marks a milestone for the foundation: It is the 25th Legacy scholarship offered to dependents and employees of MRA members. The annual scholarship competition kicks off Jan. 1; winners will be announced in June 2021.

“I strongly believe in the purpose of the foundation,” Rogers said. “We need young people to follow us. Retail is not an easy thing to get into. It’s tremendously involved with time, energy and attitude to want to provide that special product for your customers. The internet and other factors have put a lot of retailers out of business. It’s not an easy career.”

Today, nearing 80, he remains active running his cattle ranch and property management company.

But his retail career started in the 1960s, when as a traveling salesman he sold the Olga brand of women’s intimate apparel to stores like Jacobson’s. But he always wanted to work for himself, and that’s when he and Joyce bought Bartling’s, a popular women’s clothing store on Traverse City’s Front Street, in 1972.

They sold it in 2001, but he loved their time in downtown. “I think it’s the premiere downtown in the state of Michigan, maybe the Midwest.”

That may be hometown pride talking, but one would expect that from someone often dubbed, “Mr. Traverse City.” Over the years, he has served on the boards of the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Development Authority, Traverse City State Bank, the National Cherry Festival and Rotary Charities. In fact, he was a key Rotarian who helped purchase the Park Place Hotel.

He also served on the Michigan Retailers Association board from 1992-2006 and was board chair for two years.

To this day, he supports kids in 4-H by providing them a Hereford calf every August from his ranch, which they can sell the following year at the county fair. He also provides meat to the ACTS foodbank serving Acme and Williamsburg, where his ranch is located.

“I’m a city boy who always wanted to be a cowboy,” the Detroit native said.

He appreciates the strength of Michigan Retailers Association. “You’ve done it by supporting the little guys. That’s why Joyce and I support the foundation. I have such admiration for what MRA has built and how it’s grown, and the caliber of person you have there.”

Do you want to start establishing a legacy scholarship? Contact Cheryl Medler at cmedler@retailers.com for details.