Thursday, October 06, 2005


Here's one good thing about the country. This is R.F. Houtz and he owns the local small tractor dealership in the next town. I had arrived at lunch time looking to have my tractor tire repaired.

Houtz's closes down (well, sort of) around lunch time, to eat and play cards. This local gentleman had dropped in, not to buy a tractor or schedule a repair, but to talk. Sometimes that's how business is done around here. Sometimes it's not so much business as maintaining relationships.

Houtz just came back from a dealership convention, where they told him the secret to future success would be to provide the new customers (a.k.a. multi-million dollar homeowners moving in) with a shiny showroom, clean floors, beautiful lighting and snappy organization.

I don't know.....I've been doing business with Rob for 12 years and his operation is just fine with me. It may look unorganized, but he knows where everything is. He has the patchwork of carpet cleaned every year, whether it needs it or not. The lighting.....mood lighting, I say. And I'm pretty fond of the 1950's lamp on a shelf over his desk. The printer could use a little dusting though.

On the subject of maintenance and repair my thought process runs like this - I don't trust a repair shop that is sleek and sexy. They don't repair things in a place like that, they simply replace "units" or switch out complete systems.

Here's how business was conducted this day.

"Rob, I need this tire repaired."

"OK, pick it up in an hour."

"I gotta get back to work and I don't get off until 5."

"Well, I leave the tire by the front door here...just slip a check for $20 under the door."

"OK, good doing business with you."

Without an aggressive business plan, without dog-eat-dog salemen, without a slick operation, and with locals using his place as a kind of gathering place - many times not buying a damn thing, he's made a living for himself and put a kid through chiropractic college.

I won't belabor the point, but that's why we moved out here. And I can't be happy about the changes that are washing over our area. R.F. will retire, and the tractor dealership will one day resemble a Porsche showroom.


Maxime said...

I'm glad to know that such way of life still exists in US - and that there are people to apreciate and defend it. In the place where I live, things are quite similar, but politics tell us that we have to do like in the USA, and that we have no choice : productivity, cold efficiency and profit. I keep thinkin that creativity, quality of life and human links are the way humanity goes ahead. But who cares ?

Smithburger said...

The life you describe in your short story is a fairy tale to me. Living and working in a big city with so many diverse cultures and high stake money to be made, it is difficult to imagine an operation like the one you described. Thanks for shedding some light on my T.S. Elliot life.