If America’s backbone is small business, its heart is customer service.
Sunday afternoon I was talking to friends who had moved to Wallowa County from Prineville, home of Les Schwab and Les Schwab Tires, an empire built on customer service.
We exchanged stories of speedy service and employees going out of there way for a customer, even five minutes before closing time. No matter if you are in a city of 2,000 or one the size of Portland, the service is always “small town.”
Outside the reach of Les Schwab territory, I was directed to Barnsley Tire when I lived in Boulder by my mechanics, the closest versions of Click and Clack from “Car Talk” you could envision.
When I saw the manager wore Wranglers and there were photographs of 4-H animals purchased at the Boulder County Fair, I knew I was in the right place and the service was completely “small town.” If someone asked me where to get tires, I would invariably sign my praises of Barnsleys.
After moving to Lostine, it didn’t take long to incorporate with the business community.
Unable to change my car’s head light bulb by myself I went to Norton’s for help and was directed down the street to their auto shop. Tim didn’t charge me, but asked where I was getting my oil changed next and I made an appointment.
If I need air for my bike or my wheelbarrow, a jump start or a new engine, Norton’s takes care of it. I have to endure a certain amount of joking and grief, but I know I can count on them and they know I am pretty worthless when it comes to fixing anything, so I must endure.
M. Crow’s has a little bit of everything, so shopping there is a no-brainer. If they don’t have an item in stock, most things they will order for you.
At the Lostine Tavern I am handed a beverage before I can sit down. The Blue Banana serves up dog cookies with lattes.
Throughout the county there are few places I can go without knowing the owner or employees.
A couple weeks ago a friend was blown away by the love and attention he received at Vali’s Alpine Restaurant at Wallowa Lake. Two of the owners called him by name after his second visit. Maggie even offered to let him exchange his bottle of wine if he didn’t like it.
The culture of the rural West defines how we view the world. We value personal interaction, attention to detail, and an attitude of caring. Plainly, we like being SPOILED.