By small businesses, I'm not talking about some Department of Commerce "small business", with 500 multimillionaire partners, I mean small mom and pop outfits that are so small they could disappear tomorrow. I had intended this to be about the small businesses that helped us get going and thru some some tough spots. I'll get to them, but there are some other organizations I should mention first.
The first two are The Everett Herald and Kimberley Clark. Kimberly Clark obviously isn't a small business, the Herald seems like a small business until you discover it's owned by The Washington Post. Back in the Mid '80's both organizations agreed to establish a day care facility for their employees in Everett. A modular building was erected on the Herald's property between the two facilities and a day care was started. That day care ran for nearly 15 years. The site became too noisy for a day care and was closed in the late '90's. The main access to the Port of Everett crossed a feeder line for a railroad (BNSF) yard in front of the Kimberly Clark Mill. Truck and train traffic made too much noise. In the intervening years, a new access road was built for the port that bridges over the rails and eliminated the crossing that caused so much noise.
After several years of use as an office building and miscellaneous storage, we rented the building from the Herald and returned it to use as a day care. We offer employees of both Kimberly Clark and The Herald discounts for child care. A couple from the Herald have taken us up on the offer. Sadly, Kimberly Clark closed the mill last month and we don't have any clients from there.
The Herald has been very helpful in getting our first center up and running. They re-built the deck on the north side of the building. North side of almost everything in Everett needs a bit of TLC. They replaced all of the deck boards and added new steps. The added two emergency exits, built a fence around the property, put in a small deck on the south side, and put in a gravel ramp so that we didn't need steps on the exit doors.
The other not so small organization is the US Navy. Navy Station Everett is just down the road from the mill. We can see the ships home-ported in Everett from our front door. We offer a military discount, but, we're competing with an on base center that is run to federal standards, fewer students per teacher. The Navy's center has lower rates, so we've only had client from the Navy so far.
The meat of this story is on the other side of the orange croissant.
ACE Hardware Yes I know, they're a large outfit, but most stores are franchises, owned by local folks and trying to hold on against the big boxes and a tough economy. The folks at the Everett store have been very helpful while we try to figure stuff out. I mentioned their stripper in an earlier post. The folks at the local store helped us track down bottles at local stores and then ordered a case for us. Wondering thru their hardware bins, I was able to find the missing spring for one of our panic bar doors. They also helped us get stripper pads for the floor scrubber. The prices are a bit higher, less stuff to spread the cost over, but the help has been invaluable. Home Depot used to brag about how their people were knowledgeable former contractors that could help you get the right stuff. That's not happening anymore.
The Sign Guy At least I think that was his name. He's out of business now, but he knew how to deal with the city on getting signs up. Local planners were telling us we had to have a really intricate sign, pedestal, lighting, the whole nine yards. Yet 2 blocks away is a bar that has an old sign out front. All of the coverings are missing, none of the light fixtures are in place, its just a rusting frame on a pole. And, next to him is a place with a 15' tall mechanic that used to hold a muffler on their roof. And I have to pretty up the place by myself? Not long afterwards we saw new signs going up an a bail bondsman across from the county courthouse. It clearly wasn't in conformance with the runaround my wife had been given. She called the bonds office and got his name. It mostly wasn't magic, it was using the correct words with the bureaucrats. Installing a new sign created headaches. Maintaining a sign didn't create as many hurdles. So he was 'maintaining' lots of new signs around town. I really need to find a new sign guy for the new center, the street sign is over 20 feet in the air, and I'm not good with heights.
Janitor supply Actually two outfits have helped us out here. One, outside of Everett helped us with stripper and wax, questions and supplies. I'm an engineer, my son would rather be designing sets for the next Hollwood blockbuster. We're not janitors, having a friendly resource sure helps when we're trying something new.
The other supply house is here in Everett. They've fronted us the dispensers we'll need. Paper towels, toilet paper, soap and sanitizer. It's not an uncommon practice, the markup on the supplies will pay for the dispensers in no time, we had a similar agreement with a national chain. But two things are different, the national chain is much more expensive and they want to control what we get and when. Their paper towels cost $9 a roll, outside of the center pull feature, there's nothing special about these towels. Well, other than the fact that it requires much more finesse to pull out of the dispenser than most toddlers posses. Turns out Costco sells towels that fit the dispensers for more like $9 a case. The route sales guy was delivering what he thought we needed, not what we were actually using. And since he only showed up every other week, that could mean doing without or rushing to the grocery store for substitutes.
A lot of the work that we got done was actually done by individual operators. One guy with a small tractor build our sand box and stump pit. He hauled out his tractor, dug the pits, brought in the lumber (8x8 cedar), set the frames and then used his tractor to place the stumps, fill in the pits with sand and bark. The fence was installed by a small outfit that might have had 3 employees, and I think two of them were hired for the job. WE hired a guy to come in just before we opened and wax the floors, again 2-3 people worked for a few hours.
We have a visiting nurse, it's a state requirement, she drops in once a month and checks on our infants. The infants get a quick well child check and a quick gauge of their development. She'll take a peak at the waddlers if we ask her to. She's an independent contractor to the state
It seems that it's so much easier to deal with these small businesses than the behemoths that supply our phone, internet, power and water.
Special thanks to the Rescue Rangers who added last week's post to the Community Spotlight. It was my second most viewed and recommended diary. Second only to a DDD I posted last August.