Homegrown entrepreneur giving back

By Trish Yerges, For WesCom News Service November 06, 2013 09:19 am

Elgin Subway owners Brock and Alex Eckstein have given $8,000  in contributions to the Elgin community during their first year in business. (TRISH YERGES/WesCom News Service)
Elgin Subway owners Brock and Alex Eckstein have given $8,000 in contributions to the Elgin community during their first year in business. (TRISH YERGES/WesCom News Service)

ELGIN — Too often high school grads leave the peaceful country of Northeast Oregon in exchange for a metropolitan job and lifestyle. 

Not Brock Eckstein, who put his entrepreneurial ideas to work and because of his success has given $8,000 in contributions and funding back to his community. 

Eckstein graduated from Elgin High School in 2000, served in the army for six years and is still with the National Guard where he met his wife, Alex. 

In 2011, he earned his business degree at Eastern Oregon University, and that summer he started as the head coach of the Elgin football team and elementary wrestling team.

“When I was in business school, I had a senior project to work up a business plan for an Elgin Subway store,” Eckstein said. “The teacher said it was a solid business plan, and if I didn’t do it, he would.”

Eckstein gave it serious thought and decided to move forward with the idea of opening an Elgin Subway.

“It took quite a while to get financing,” he said. “There were a lot of closed doors telling me no. Then I went to the La Grande U.S. Bank, and they pointed me to Greg Smith, director of the EOU Small Business Development Center in La Grande.”

Smith connected Eckstein with Northeast Oregon Economic Development District, the State of Oregon and back to U.S. Bank, and each of them offered Eckstein a low-interest loan to start his business. 

“It would have taken years to get this done without Greg Smith,” Eckstein said.

Despite the learning curve during the first year of business, the Elgin Subway was a hit. The store is in a highly visible location, and patrons have been plentiful. The Ecksteins each put in 50 hours per week at the store to oversee its operation.

During the first year of business, Eckstein used his business as a channel to give back to the community. Besides employing eight, he also made contributions to assist Elgin High School students who were members of the Future Business Leaders of America so they could attend national FBLA competitions.

“There are a lot of good organizations and community goals, but they are hard to get going, so I wanted to help out,” he said. “I was in Future Business Leaders of America all four years of high school, so I feel that as a business owner I should support organizations like that.”

He also sponsors three different local reading programs.

“Subway gives out reading achievement certificates, and they get a free sandwich as a reward for meeting the librarian’s goal. It makes me feel good to see the kids cash those certificates in at Subway.”

Eckstein believes that “you can’t isolate yourself and do well in business,” so he keeps connected with community events like the Elgin Chamber Banquet where Subway sponsored a table and a Subway basket for the silent auction. 

On Elgin Clean-Up day at the Stampede grounds, Subway provided the food for all the volunteer workers at the stations. Eckstein also recruited the football team to help with the tire collection station, where they broke the tires down and recycled the rims. He’s teaching the kids one of life’s important lessons.

“I make the kids do a lot of volunteer work like at the new playground at the Community Center.,” he said. “The kids need to understand they have to give back to the community. All the funds they receive are from the community, so that’s not free money. They have to give back. My coaches did the same thing when I was in high school.”

Elgin Subway donates food for the 4-H Radio Auction and the Boise Cascade bass tournament. Eckstein gave money for a sponsored plaque for the Show and Shine car show last June at Elgin’s Riverfest and contributed toward the Elgin High School volleyball team and the Shriner’s Hospital All-Star game in Baker City.

“I like working with local organizations and the schools,” Eckstein said. “I have a personal tie to most of them.”