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As my husband and I start our third act 15 years in advance, I had the pleasure of experiencing what it takes to get vehicle registration and plates in a new city. It wasn’t the 15 minute visit to the DMV I was used to, which I know is not normal. So, I prepped myself with calm and patience to better understand the process and to make it easier for my husband’s impending trip. Little did I know I would end the day in tears.
I work with business owners every day. I am in tune with the latest issues concerning their need for talent and supplies. Many business owners are having to step back into their businesses. They need to work longer days to make up for the employees they don’t have. Within social media I see so many people complaining about the wait times, poor customer service and the lack of stock on the shelves. They don’t realize what may be going on deeper into these businesses. Today was no different at City Hall as I stood and listened to the people waiting in line.
I won’t bore you with the full in-depth process I went through that ultimately took six hours. But, I do want to share one small piece that led me to an amazing business owner buried deep in North St. Louis. It was here I needed to get an emissions and safety inspection.
When I arrived there were two other women also waiting to have their inspections completed. I would have an hour-and-a-half wait, so I settled into my personal comfy couch and proceeded to read emails. After a few minutes, I heard in the background a conversation about the ’49ers. When I looked up there were seven people chatting about their favorite football teams. Everyone was smiling and joy filled the room. I went back to my email until another man entered the waiting room to speak to the owner.
Joe had just been released from prison. He was looking for some short-term employment to help him get by until he starts rehab for his addiction to drugs. He anticipates being in the program for 30 days, then upon release he will be ready to work full-time. After a few questions by the owner, he agreed to help Joe out by giving him some work around the shop. After a bit of instruction, Joe started emptying the trash, cleaning windows and more. This small experience really warmed my heart to see such humanity.
As my wait time passed, I continued to watch new customers come and go. Every customer stayed and engaged in jovial conversation and walked away happy with their service.
Then it came time to pay. I expected something around $150 for the service and ended up paying only $36. A pleasant surprise! As I closed out my bill for my car, I queried about bringing in my husband’s car later in the day, I then headed back to City Hall to get my plates. By 2:00 PM I was driving back to Gateway Tire with my husband’s car.
When I arrived, I was greeted outside by one of the workers. He inquired about the gas mileage for my husband’s car, as he wanted to get a similar car for his wife. After hearing my less than stellar response, we both had a chuckle. Then I headed inside where I handed over my keys. The owner and I engaged in another conversation about my husband’s involvement in this whole process. Again, I got a good laugh and sat back on my comfy couch. It was at this point I started really looking at the place.
I’ve taken many cars over the decades to tire and oil change places, both franchises and car dealers. This place has to be at the top of the list when it comes to nicest car care centers to visit, if there is such a list. Most would have a tire, gas and oil smell to them. Not this one. The sodas were $.50 a can. The floor was clean. Multiple comfy couches lined every wall. And I must mention the bathroom. Cleanest I’ve seen.There was a thank you card posted above the toilet from a customer saying thank you for such a clean bathroom. The car bay was also very clean and well-lit.
I continued to sit on the comfy couch as I waited. One of the workers entered the room and engaged in conversation with the owner about Joe. Joe had been doing a wonderful job and he wanted to show him how to change a tire. The owner was happy to hear the report and told him to move forward with the training. Then soon after, Joe entered the room to head out for the day. It was at this point the owner gave him his pay. He told Joe what a terrific job he had done and he wanted him to come back after he completed his rehab. The owner then proceeded to share his story. His last employee had been on drugs, overdosed and passed away two weeks ago. The owner told Joe that he wanted to work with him, so it was up to Joe to get clean and come back. A job would be there for him. After hearing this, I struggled to hold back my tears from the humanity this man displayed.
I soon paid and headed home. I felt such respect for this owner, his leadership and what he has built. I will forever be an advocate for him and I am sure he will never know. He may not even realize the impact he has on every person that comes into his shop each day and how truly foundational that is to his business.