BUHL• A profitable business knows the source of its success.
For Valley Co-ops Inc., a Jerome-based public-driven company, that source is its customers — many of whom are members of the co-op.
More recognizable are the stores in Buhl, Gooding, Jerome, Shoshone and Wendell — mini-mart gas stations called Valley Country Stores that sell clothing, hardware, farm and pet products, toys, groceries and much more. For those wanting a quick meal, some stores, like the one in Buhl and a new $5 million store in Gooding, even lease space to McDonald’s.
The stores, which average more than 20 employees apiece, bring in a lot of happy customers, said Don Taber, a member of the co-op’s seven-member board of directors. As a whole, the co-op has about 165 employees.
“Valley Country Stores compete every day with Walmart and other big-box stores,” he said. “Our success stems from our customers and customer service.”
The cooperative’s roots date back more than 50 years with the IdahoGrange Co-op and Wendell Grange Supply companies, which merged in 1991 to form Valley Co-ops Inc., said general manager Donn Bordewyk.
Owned by its members, it works as a home, farm and ranch supply company, he said. It also features gas and propane delivery segments that serve farmers and other rural customers. The company, with a partnership with Valley Wide Cooperative, caters to customers from Glenns Ferry to Burley and from Jackpot, Nev., to Sun Valley, Bordewyk said.
“We try to listen to our customers and meet their needs,” he said. That applies even to basic steps, like managing customer lines at registers to avoid long waits.
The holidays were a busy time, he said Friday at the Buhl store, pointing out a child’s electric toy automobile that was one of the draws at Christmastime.
For the roughly 5,000 members of the co-op, however, Christmas often comes early through dividends. Active members receive checks in the mail each year representing a percentage of money made through patronage and stock retirement.
Since 1991, when the company was formed, it’s returned more than $7.4 million divided among its members. Not bad, Bordewyk said, when it costs just $5 to join.
That’s not just good customer service, he said. It’s a fundamental part of why the company has been successful these many years.
“Good customer service,” he said. “It’s not just a cute saying.”