BIZTIPS - September 25, 2005

Biz Tips: Business Blends Past and Present, History and Vision
Sunday, September 25, 2005
By Art Hill

A couple of weeks ago about 200 friends gathered to celebrate the rebirth of Hamley's western store in Pendleton. On that Friday evening before Round-Up we had the privilege of seeing the past and future at the same time. Not only Pendletonís past and future, but the past and future of our region, and the entire American West.

One guest described how, as a kid, he spent every spare penny on agate marbles from the very store we were sitting in. I could see it as clearly as if it happened that afternoon. How can an experience be so real that just for a moment, we could have been sitting in Austin, Tulsa, or Pendleton 50 or 100 years ago?

To understand the answer, you have to understand the passion of a business owner for a dream that blends merchandise and memories, cash and craftsmanship, history and hope for the future. You have to understand the vision and commitment needed to touch the heart and soul of a community. You have to understand the dedication of a small business team through all the years of waiting, the time and money, the inevitable triumphs and tragedies. In the end, it isn't just about the business. It's about the values it embodies, and those values were evident that Friday evening.

Maybe that's the magic combination of elements in any successful business -- history, vision, values, quality, service. Even education isn't overlooked. Like Connecticut's Mystic Seaport or Virginia's Colonial Williamsburg, Pendletons Hamley's has a long history of making what they sell right in front of the visitor. The saddle maker's shop is in the store. So whether it's a famous Hamley's "kit" box or an exquisite saddle, you get to experience the craftsmanship first-hand as the products take shape before your eyes.

Not all of us grew up on a ranch. Our childhood memories don't include the smell of horses and fresh-cut saddle leather. But a couple of weeks ago it didn't matter. From the time we walked into Hamley's until the time we heard the western swing band from the upstairs windows on the way back to the truck, that world was ours ... the genuine article .. a look into both the past and the future. It was rare, it was powerful, it was local business at its best, and it was very, very good to see.

Content © 2005 East Oregonian