D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership

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Business Owners Stress Customer Service Article 2004

By STEVE CAHALAN | La Crosse Tribune

Treating customers right and giving back to the community are key to the success of family-owned business, the owners of two downtown La Crosse businesses said Wednesday in a Brown Bag Series lecture at Viterbo University.

The presentation by Steve and Nancy Rose of Rose Jewelers at 431 Main St. and Todd and Deb Ondell of Grounded Specialty Coffee at 308 Main St. was the last in this academic year's four-part series.

Steve Rose's great-grandfather, George B. Rose, started the jewelry store in 1856 at a different downtown location. Two of Steve and Nancy Rose's children are involved in the business, and a third will be by the end of the year.

With that many family members involved in the business, the Roses are considering opening a second jewelry store, Steve Rose said. They don't have a timetable or location at this point, and definitely will keep operating the downtown store, he said.

Rose said La Crosse has a number of old family-owned businesses because "it's a fabulous place to live, and people probably don't want to leave."

He and his wife stressed the importance of treating customers right. "You want your family to be involved in the community, and it ends up being a two-way situation," said Rose, who has been active in community organizations. It's also important to shop at businesses whose owners shop at yours, he said.

Developing trust with customers also is key to a successful business, Nancy Rose said.

The Ondells opened their coffee house last May in a 150-year-old building, Todd Ondell said. He and his wife sold their interest in 24 Hardee's restaurants five years ago, and he had retired except for teaching part time at Viterbo University's Dahl School of Business.

"We really work with our employees to make sure that every single time one of our guests leave, they feel better than when they came in," Ondell said. "That's very, very important.

"In the course of less than a year, we've had customers, guests, from every single continent, including Antarctica," he said.

"People from throughout the world actually get off the interstate to come into La Crosse, Wisconsin," and are impressed with the reception they receive, Ondell said. "There's something here - the people. We frequently are told (by visitors) that 'Gosh, somebody said hello to me on the street.' We all do that around here. But people from other parts of the state and other parts of the country aren't familiar with that."

Three of the Ondells' four children are involved in the coffeehouse. Whether a second Grounded opens will be up to the children in the future, Deb Ondell said.

Steve Cahalan can be reached at 608-791-8229 or scahalan@lacrossetribune.com.
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