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Shop Talk

January 22, 2011

Shop Talk: Hogan's General Store

Hogans General Store,: 103 Main St., Andes Owner: David Hogan Established: Purchased in 1999 Employees: average of four full time; seven part time

Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Donald Hogan, owner of Hogans General Store in Andes.

How long have you lived in the area?

Thirteen years ago I was here helping a friend with some renovation work and I fell in love with the place. While working across the street I met Helen (the previous owner, who had owned it for 45 years) and she mentioned that she might consider selling to the right person. Within a year I had moved up here.

Tell me about your business:

We have a little bit of everything here, and maybe the most popular is our pizzas, which have been compared to the best that the city has to offer. We have fresh breads and bakery items made right here, a deli, basic grocery store items, fishing supplies and news. The news is not just the daily and weekly papers; Hogans is a place where community members get the word-of-mouth news, newcomers get news of where to find supplies they need or who a recommended handyman is, and visitors get news and information about events and directions. We are a gas station, firewood store and home to the town of Andes ambassador/mascot and greeter, a once-stray cat named Cumin.

Describe a typical day in your business:

My days are really long; they start at 4:30 a.m. when I meet up with my baker, who starts the day early, too. By 5 a.m., I have coffee made and am ready to make breakfast for the early crowd on their way to work. I start lunch preparations when I am not visiting and joking with the morning customers. I am a self-taught pizza pro and that keeps me busy in between running errands and getting supplies in. The day is a steady stream of people coming and going until we close shop during the week at 8 p.m., and at 9 p.m. on the weekends.

How did you get started in this line of work?

My start was just by meeting Helen and deciding that I did not want to live in the city any more. I knew a lot about building and renovating and just added on from what was established here.

Where do you see this business in five years?

I am always changing, adding, improving, because that's what you need to do to survive. At the end of 2010 the back portion of this building was leased, and there is the ChaCha Hut BBQ here now. In five years for Hogans General Store, I am not sure, but I hope that this year I will be able to add on a store-front seating area with table service. I think that will be a great addition for people who want to stay to eat their pizza or deli sandwiches.

Describe a memorable moment in your workplace:

Any day that the school kids come in here and say hello makes me laugh and it's always memorable to me, but if I were to pick out a single event, it would be when there was the shooting incident in Margaretville. The state police and the support network needed to have food and beverages, but a lot of the Margaretville shops were closed or unable to supply the quantities that they needed. For three days, I was in constant motion running back and forth making pizzas and sandwiches, packing up chilled water and sodas. It was great to help out and go the extra mile for these people that put their lives on the line.

What have you learned from your work?

I have learned how important a sense of humor is, that it helps to be a bit crazy and how to be adaptable. Where I am from, there is not a sense of community, and here I have learned what being part of a community is and how great it is.

What is the most challenging part of what you do?

No hesitation, it's the paperwork part of running a business.

The most enjoyable?

I love making people happy and helping people out. Fridays are a special day around here where I offer any veterans or anyone currently in the armed forces free coffee. It's a small thing, but I want them to know that I thank them for their service. I sponsor and donate to community organizations, and it helps me to be a part of this town and this area.

How do you define success for your business?

I define success as being adaptable, willing to change and to become part of the community. For me, there is success in being in control of my destiny and being appreciated. I think that I spread success also, when I need employees I am willing to hire the high school kids who have never had any job and they have no experience. I tell them that they might not want to do this type of work their whole life, but learning the basic skills of showing up, following directions and being willing to learn will help them get jobs anywhere in the future.

What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?

The advantages are the unique quality of being a part of something here, knowing your neighbors, fellow business owners, regular customers and living in a small rural town. The drawbacks are that the limited number of vendors who supply to this region make my selection a bit more limited and the volume of customers is tough, but I will take my quality of customers over volume any day.

What sets you apart from your competitors?

This is a very small town with many businesses not open every day. I am open, and I offer the basic grocery staples for someone to get by on without having to drive to either of next-closest grocery stores.

What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?

I would tell someone who was interested in this field of work that it is best not to try to do everything all at once, give customers more than what they expect and keep a sense of humor always.

Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or e-mail news@thedailystar.com.

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