The first time I stopped in to Lund's, I entered a typical small town hardware store. The entire place is the size of a department at a big box store. The prices may not be as low, but you can get in and out, and not drive a twenty mile round trip. Now that alone would be enough to bring me in fairly often. Then I met Fred.
Moments after I entered I was met eye to eye by a warm gentle man, hand extended; "hello, I'm Fred, can I help you?" "yes" I answered; and within five minutes, Fred had extracted my name, occupation, names of my wife, our three children, hobbies, and a fair bit of family history. As I left that first day, he made sure to be near enough to the door to bid me "thanks Doug." By the time we were done with our part of the sweat equity on our new home, I had been into Lund's dozens of times. Each time, Fred would acknowledge me with a warm greeting and ask a few questions about my clan. I observed other new residents, first time visitors to Lund's, and watched as Fred drew them out, welcoming them to his family of customers.
Through good times and bad, Fred, ever present, would help me find what I needed and if I was in a rough patch, would provide a patient listening ear. I don't remember of the now hundreds of visits to Lund's more than a hand full of times that Fred was not present. His staff is well trained, patient and polite, but Fred is the heart and soul of the operation, and for that matter a significant bit of the heart and soul of our little town. He is the only Dad I have ever seen outside throughout Halloween evening, greeting and engaging every trick-or-treater as they approached his home.
Every visit to Lund's Fred learned a bit more about me and my family, and always asked for updates on the latest goings on. Going to Lund's I would forget the stubborn broken bolt, or maddening problem with a leaky pipe, and instead, look forward to those few quiet moments with Fred.
At my sarcastic worst, I have said that every history museum in every city will soon be adding two wings: Customer Service and Common Sense, this because both will soon be "extinct" in the real world. Ah well, Fred to the rescue on that one, proving me wrong. Thanks Fred.