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31 October 2007
Town & Gown:
Local Shopping, Local Relationships

By Dr. William A. Meehan
President, Jacksonville State University
Weekly Column - Town and Gown

For this week’s column, I thought I would share with you something I recently penned as chairman of the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce. We are so fortunate to live in a community where the merchants understand the true meaning of customer service.

As soon as my daughter was old enough to memorize a complete sentence, her mother taught her a cheer that they repeat in turn anytime the urge to shop strikes them. One shouts, “Who are we?” The other shouts back, “Girls!” “What do we like to do?” “Shop!” “Whose money do we spend?” “Daddy’s!”

The ability to shop seems genetic, perhaps connected to the second X chromosome, which the fairer gender possesses. Shopping comes easy to those so predisposed.

The rest of my family, the guys, are genetically challenged when it comes to shopping. We just don’t do it well. We need help! Fortunately, Calhoun County has a large number of gems when it comes to the art of customer relationships.

I owe the success of my anniversary, birthday and/or Christmas gifts to the customer service skills of Wakefield’s Eva Pinson. Somehow she always knows what my lady likes and picks out the right thing each time. I thought for years that Eva was my personal shopper. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she has this same relationship with all her customers, male and female alike.

Another great local example of customer relationships is Jan Smith proprietor of The Keeping Room in DeArmanville. Christmas shopping is something I manage to plan for early each Christmas Eve. It’s a skill that I am passing on to my two sons, who always join me whether they want to or not. Good or bad, it’s a tradition. Intuitively, Jan knows we are coming that last shopping day and is always prepared. Without exception she knows the specialty pieces we have purchased in prior years, suggests the new additions or accessories that are just right and gift wraps it all. Wrapping is a skill I have spent over half a century attempting to master without success.

Relationships make a difference. Earlier this year our pharmacist Jay Colvin, owner and operator of Crow Drug Inc. in Jacksonville, ran out of a prescription medicine for one of our three children. Instead of sending us to another pharmacy or waiting until his own supply was restocked, he went to another pharmacy, purchased the medicine and delivered it to our home.

The doctor doesn’t make house calls, but the pharmacist does. Free home delivery is offered to all of Jay’s customers at Crow Drug.

No matter what the item: clothing, jewelry, prescription medicine or specialty gift items, Jacksonville and its surrounding cities in Calhoun County has the merchandise and the merchant that can deliver. Most importantly, the relationship here at home makes the experience personal and unique. It’s worth staying at home and buying in Calhoun County.

About William A. Meehan

Dr. William A. Meehan is president of Jacksonville State University. His column, "Town & Gown," appears in The Jacksonville News.

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