Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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For this week’s Chamber Talk, I have been talking with one of my all-time favorite people and newest Chamber board member Nina Angle of Anglewood Kitchens & Design. Nina and I have been pondering the questions “What is the Chamber?” and “How does the Chamber benefit a business owner?”

Time seems to be on a fast track here at Lake Gaston. Despite the heaping helpings of winter weather Mother Nature has seen fit to serve us, March 1 arrives on Saturday! Lake Gaston regional businesses and residents alike are eager for Spring with the beautiful weather, time outdoors, second home owners, vacationers and visitors that Spring and Summer will soon herald in for us.

I had an interesting conversation with one of our local businesses the other day. We have previously addressed this issue in brief in Chamber Talk, but my conversation with that business person, made me want to present it more in depth. The topic of our conversation was customer loyalty.

We all know that in this age of e-commerce that we are able to cast our net far and wide to seek the best price or a unique brand of a particular item. However, we also know that although convenient, shopping online loses any personal interaction with the business. If, for instance, I am shopping for an appliance or a piece of furniture, would I rather shop online, gazing at photo after photo of products, or would I rather go to my local merchant, actually touch the product and listen to the store staff tell me more about the product’s features?

I truly feel that we have good customer service here in the Lake Gaston region, and good customer service is one of the most important facets of the customer buying experience for both goods and services. You may argue that shopping online is quick and offers more choices. That can be true, but it can also be tedious, depending upon the site from which you order, and disappointing in product quality.

For example, three Christmases ago, I wanted to order a radio/CD player for the shower because my then pre-teenager loved listening to music while she stayed in there for what seemed like hours. I honestly couldn’t find this product in stores locally, so I decided to order from Amazon because, of course, they would have what I needed. I selected a mid-price product with the features I wanted. It arrived quickly and was packaged nicely. However, it stopped working soon after my daughter received it.

Products fail all the time whether ordered online or not; however, if I had taken the time to further explore and find this product with a local merchant, perhaps they would have known more and could have shared with me the product’s performance. There was no place to return the product, so it still resides in the cabinet under the bathroom sink in the hopes that I will one day fix it.

What else doesn’t happen when we order online? Our dollars do not turn over in the region the way they do when we shop locally. I have mentioned previously that research shows that shopping locally keeps approximately .55 of every $1 in the area. The fact alone should make us want to keep our dollars in the Lake Gaston region, but the other facets of customer loyalty and shopping locally are having relationships with our local merchants (kind of like Andy Griffith and Floyd the barber back in the good ol’ days) and keeping our businesses healthy.

If I walk into any store or contact any local business for a service, they will do their best to meet my needs and exceed my expectations because this is their livelihood. I like consistency and reliability and being able to count on the experience I am going to get. I like knowing the merchant by name and having more of a personal interaction. Choosing to spend money is a personal experience. Spend it wisely with our local shops, restaurants, and service-providers. Healthy businesses are able to hire more and better staff to enhance our customer service experience, and they are able to stock a better selection of products.

Shop the Lake Gaston region first. It is a win-win in the region for everyone – businesses, customers, local government, non-profits, churches and more! Keep your ears open. Our next Shop Lake Gaston 1st contest will begin on Memorial Day weekend and run through Labor Day weekend.

By the way, I want to say a hearty congratulations to our ACE Hardware family – Paul, Bill and Terryn Owens – as they soon open their new ACE Hardware location in Rolesville, NC. If you’re headed over that way, be sure to stop by because you know the level of customer service you will be able to expect. Lake Gaston is proud of you!

Valentine’s Day is truly upon us. I’m not much on the “mushy stuff,” as I call it, but in our hectic lives, I do believe in taking moments to remind those we love that we love them. Days like Valentine’s Day can give us pause to reflect on the love that we have in our lives and what we love about who we are and where we live.

Since I offered seven things to love about the Lake Gaston region in last week’s Chamber Talk, I want to offer seven more this week for a total of 14 in honor of February 14th:

8. Delicious Food – The Lake Gaston region is blessed with many creative restaurants whose dishes are as unique as the chefs who prepare them. Many times I have reflected on the fabulous meals I have enjoyed around the region. One of the other wonderful aspects of dining around the Lake Gaston region is that there is incredible ambience to accompany the food. You might find yourself dining in a colonial-era home, a countryside café with a lovely front porch, by the waterside looking out at an amazing sunset, in a vineyard surrounded by grape vines or a place that just feels like home.

9. Water, Water, Everywhere – We couldn’t talk about the Lake Gaston region if we did not talk about this amazing 350 miles of shoreline and 20,000+ acres of water. This water not only generates power for the region and beyond, but provides drinking water to other communities. Lake Gaston is a magnificent habitat for all sorts of creatures – the majestic Bald Eagle, the Osprey, Great Blue Herons, Egrets, Kingfishers, a variety of ducks, catfish, Striped Bass, Large Mouth Bass, Crappie, and so much more. The water is what draws people here to enjoy swimming, boating, floating, tubing, skiing, fishing…the ultimate in Lake Gaston living!

10. Brunswick County, VA – I would be remiss if I did not talk about each of the region’s counties individually. Alphabetically, we arrive at Brunswick County, VA, first, and there is so much to love in Brunswick County, namely Brunswick Stew! What about the wonderful Valentines Post Office with the one-of-a-kind cache? On my way back to the office after a recent meeting, I followed the signs to explore Fort Christanna and loved it!

11. Halifax County, NC – Halifax County, NC, is the Birthplace of Independence where the Halifax Resolves, the first document by any colony declaring independence from England was signed on April 12, 1776 (one of the dates on the NC flag). You can explore this history at Historic Halifax State Historic Site. Don’t miss Sylvan Heights Bird Park, the largest collection of waterfowl in the world. Medoc Mountain State Park offers camping, hiking, educational programs and so much more! The Roanoke Canal Museum & Trail is essentially a 7.5-mile indoor/outdoor museum with interpretive signs along the trail and interactive exhibits in the building.

12. Mecklenburg County, VA – I was fortunate enough to take a tour around Mecklenburg County with their dynamic tourism director Justin Kerns soon after I began work here. Mecklenburg County is blessed to have ample water recreation in both Lake Gaston and Kerr Lake. There are also many historic points of interest like Prestwould Plantation and Boyd Tavern. Occoneechee State Park is absolutely amazing! Don’t miss the doll, train and tobacco farm life museums in South Hill.

13. Northampton County, NC – I love Northampton County! There is plenty of rolling farmland to enjoy via biking or motorcycling. Stop in the many small towns and explore the mom and pop businesses. Canoe on the mighty Roanoke River. Enjoy a walking tour and Northampton County Museum in Jackson or visit the Veterans Memorial in Conway.

14. Warren County, NC – There is no way that you can visit Warren County and not love it. Warrenton has created an amazing downtown environment with unique businesses and restaurants. I love the antique shop in Norlina. When you get a moment, find out why they named the community Wise. There is very much an historic and cultural vibe all around the county.

I hope you feel the love from this article and, more importantly, have a renewed love for the Lake Gaston region. Since this is Valentine’s weekend, exercise your Shop Lake Gaston 1st efforts by conducting a business blitz in one of our many romantic eateries! Take your sweetheart for dinner out at Tammy’s Place, WatersView, The Pointe, Pea Hill Creek Café, or Chef’s Korner, share a sub at Subway or Quizno’s at Bracey Slip-In, a milkshake and fries at Highway 55, or take your sweetie to breakfast at Huddle House. Valentine’s Day is all about being kind to those you love, no matter what form that takes! So let’s get out there and show the love to one another in the Lake Gaston region!

Although it seems that I just finished packing up the holiday decorations and reflecting on the past year in preparation for the new, here we are with Valentine’s Day right around the corner. Now, I’m not one of those who has ever been all that into Valentine’s Day, as I believe you should show your loved ones that you care on a daily basis. However, I do think that days like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and the like provide moments of pause where the entire world seems to be fixated on love and appreciation (at least for a 24-hour period).

Therefore, I would like to use a portion of this week’s Chamber Talk to reflect on the many reasons why we love the Lake Gaston region, reasons that we celebrate and share with others all year long. In fact, as there are 14 days from the beginning of February to Valentine’s Day, we will share 14 things that are special to our region (7 this week and 7 next week):

1. Unique Local Businesses – Of course, we here at the Chamber celebrate entrepreneurship every day, and the Lake Gaston region is blessed with creative and top-notch businesses. Whether a one-man landscaping business or a large corporation, we find that our Lake Gaston regional businesses are invested in growing and supporting our region.

2.Hard-Working Non-Profits – There has never been a time in my life when I was not in some way involved with a non-profit organization. I am truly amazed at the active non-profits in the Lake Gaston region, making life here better for all via blood drives, toy drives, water safety, weed control and so much more. I thank them for their service and hope to partner with them this year.

3.Active Churches – What an amazing variety of church families we have in the Lake Gaston region! These churches are not only active on Sundays for worship but throughout the week. In fact, many churches are greatly involved in their local communities by supporting non-profits, operating food banks, providing youth activities, investing in the arts and more! We also want to partner with our churches and help spread the word of their good works around the region.

4.Giving Volunteers – The Chamber itself, the non-profits and the churches would not exist without a pool of generous volunteers. Once again, I am in awe of the funds that are raised, the playgrounds that are built, the toys that are collected, the weeds that are identified, the trash that is picked up, the people who are fed and on and on by these wonderful volunteers! Thank you all for your service.

5.Talented People – My goodness, where to begin? We have some amazing talents in the region – musicians who give us their voices and their notes, actors and actresses who delight us on the stages of our local theatres, artists who paint and photograph and sculpt and create images of Lake Gaston and beyond, speakers who wow us with their thoughts and many retirees whose skills carry over into new endeavors.

6.Special Events – We love the signature events around the Lake Gaston region like Battle of the Barbecue, the July 4th fireworks, the Littleton-Lake Gaston Festival, the Brunswick Stew Festival, the Holiday Boat Parade and so much more!

7.Supportive Media – Thanks to our local newspapers and radio stations for being so good to the region by promoting our organizations and our events and creating awareness of all that the Lake Gaston region has to offer.

Well, that’s enough love to spread around for now. I’ll share more next week. Back to the business at hand…or the Shop Lake Gaston 1st Business Blitz at hand! In preparation for Valentine’s Day, this Saturday, February 8, from 9 a.m. to Noon, everyone who can please shop at Lake Gaston Flower Shop with the lovely, talented and creative Terri. You will find something that your sweetheart will absolutely love! Don’t wait until the last minute to place your order for fresh-cut flowers or a potted plant. In fact, everyone who places their order on or before this Saturday will receive a 5% discount off their order! Terri’s shop is decorated from top to bottom with everything you need to make your Valentine’s Day special! Business Blitz – Lake Gaston Flower Shop – THIS Saturday, February 8, 9 a.m. to Noon…Don’t miss it!

The impending winter weather reminds me that we need to be as prepared as possible. I hope that the message of Shop Lake Gaston 1st is hitting home when you are thinking of preparing your home and yourself for cold, icy conditions.

Whether your heating system operates on gas or electricity, there are plenty of Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce members ready to serve you. We are blessed in this region to have Dominion Power, Duke Energy, Halifax Electric Membership Corporation, Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, Progress Energy and Roanoke Electric Cooperative providing electricity to “light the lake,” keep us warm and our appliances running. Our gas and oil companies like AAA Gas & Appliance, Daughtridge Gas Company, New Dixie Oil Corporation, Newsom Oil & Gas Company, and Parker Oil Company provide the means to heat our homes, as well as prepare meals in times of power outages due to ice.

We want to make certain that our heating systems are functioning properly. Use a service technician in the Lake Gaston region like AirBoss Heating and Cooling, Comfort Zone Heating and Air, Price’s Refrigeration & Heating Service, and Southern Comfort Heating & Cooling. Their trained staff can keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter as efficiently as possible. Of course, if your home isn’t well insulated, then your home won’t be heated properly. Call Smith Insulation to keep your home wrapped in warmth.

Make sure that there are no dangerous limbs overhanging your home or power lines. Contact Northstar Industries for tree trimming services or check with other home maintenance services like Bobby Talton Lawn Services, Comfort Zone Handyman Services, Corey’s Lawn Service, Eagle Landscaping and Lawn Care, P&P Home Maintenance, Philip Lawn Care & Landscaping Services, Top Gun Enterprises or WJ’s Lawn Maintenance and Landscaping to see if they trim trees as well. You might also want to trim back larger shrubs and protect certain plants from freezing temperatures.

If something happens to your home, don’t forget to call your insurance company. There are many wonderful insurance agents in the Lake Gaston region ready to serve you – Accounting Etc., A.M. Newsom Agency, Farm Bureau Insurance of Halifax County, Maddrey Insurance Agency, Nationwide Insurance-O.L. Meek, Roanoke Valley Insurance & Financial Services, State Farm Insurance-Chris Canady, Triangle Financial Group, Virginia Asset Management, and Watkins Insurance Agency.

No matter what, be smart in colder, icy weather. Take good care of yourself and your home, so that everything and everyone will be healthy and ready to welcome Spring! For more Lake Gaston regional service providers, please visit www.lakegastonchamber.com.

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