Longtime banker Ronald “Ronnie” Earl Abbott , founder of Paris-based Peoples National Bank (now Peoples Bank under a Texas state charter), passed away on September 1 at the age of 69.
Raised in Paris, Abbott went straight to work after graduating from high school, starting off as a dispatcher for the Texas Ranger Law Enforcement Association. He then moved on to build houses with his father. A natural entrepreneur, “he was always dreaming and planning,” according to his obituary. “While he didn’t have formal business training or a college education, he had the innate knowledge—and enough courage—to start many businesses and see them through to success.”
Abbott’s first business venture was launched in 1982, when he and his wife, Deborah, whom he had wed in 1976, opened Abbott’s Furniture in Paris. Ronnie sold the furniture on credit and Deborah managed the bookkeeping. After selling the furniture business, they kickstarted their next venture selling Compaq personal computers, physicians’ office software, education software and Xerox photocopiers.
From there, the two opened one of the first Grandy’s franchises in the nation in Paris. Abbott persuaded Grandy’s corporate decision-makers to let him open the restaurant, which was originally designed for metropolitan areas, in his hometown of Paris because “that’s where their real consumer base was.” The Abbotts successfully grew their location to be the No. 1 franchise in sales nationwide, even surpassing the performance of corporate-owned locations.
Following the success of their restaurant, in 1988 Ronnie and Deborah Abbott purchased the Liberty Bank building in downtown Paris, with intentions to convert the space into another restaurant. Ultimately, they chose instead to jump into another new industry, maintaining the location’s banking roots. With the backing of a small group of investors, Abbott, at age 34, purchased the First National Bank of Bogata and transferred its assets to a new subsidiary known as Peoples National Bank. The bank continues operating today.
“He wasn’t sure if he would get any customers beyond his own mother, but he had a dream to open a bank that wasn’t just built to serve those who had large sums of money to deposit, but to serve the working class and anyone in need the best he could as a true community bank,” Abbott’s obituary states.
While leading operations at Peoples National Bank, Abbott purchased a patent for a touchless car wash, eventually partnering with Sherman Industries to manufacture Ronnie and Deborah’s vision for the new business. After merging with Hanna Industries, the company grew to become the largest car wash manufacturing business in the world. The venture led to the company’s sponsorship for the Paul Newman/Carl Haas Indy car race team with Mario and Michael Andretti.
Abbott is survived by his wife of 47 years, Deborah; sons Ranger (Ashley) and Chance (Savannah); grandchildren Dylan, Shep, Birdie and Goldie; sister Cyndy Abbott; mother-in-law Wanda Jones; brother-in-law Tim (Jo Marie) Jones; sister-in-law Stacie (Mickey) Ross; and numerous other family members and friends.