By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University
Kansas- It is nine o’clock at night. You are in the middle of a plumbing repair, and you find you need another plumbing fitting. The big box stores are closed. Delivery service is a day or two away.
What do you do?
If you’re in Victoria, Kansas, you call Jim. He’ll come open Victoria Lumber so you can get the part you need. This is the kind of customer service that helps sustain this store in rural Kansas.
Jim and Becky Scheck are the owners of Victoria Lumber. Jim grew up in the area and worked at a manufacturing plant in Hays until the company relocated. He then farmed and worked in the oilfield.
In 1983, a neighboring landowner asked Scheck if he would want to work part-time at Victoria Lumber, the local hardware store and lumberyard.
Scheck took the job. Within six months, he was working there full-time. He started as a yard man, then worked at fixing screens and moved up to become a bookkeeper. “It gave me a good overview of the entire business,” he said.
Victoria Lumber Company was founded in 1952. In 2006, after the previous owner became ill, Jim and Becky purchased the business.
Today, Victoria Lumber Company is a full-service lumberyard and hardware store, offering plumbing and electrical supplies and repairs and more, for customers from the homeowner to the contractor. It’s quite a service in a community of 1,077 people. Now, that’s rural!
The Schecks have four children. Their oldest daughter and her husband are teachers in Victoria. Their oldest son is with the Dodge City school district. Son Justin farms and works in the oilfield, and youngest son Jared is working at Victoria Lumber.
In 2017, the store went through a complete remodel, expansion and new roof installation. The retail space now includes 4,500 square feet under one roof with multiple outside storage sheds.
Victoria is about 10 miles from the city of Hays, which has an extensive retail district and national franchise stores. How does an independent store compete?
“Customer service,” Scheck said. In addition to the store’s extensive inventory, Victoria Lumber does plumbing work, repairs windows and screens, installs hot water heaters, and more. “We stock a lot of items,” he said. “The service end of it keeps customers coming back.”
“I get calls after hours,” Scheck adds. “I only live one half block from the store, so I can go down and let someone in.” That’s a far cry from having to call 1-800-XYZ for customer service from overseas.
“This family is very community-minded,” said Stacy Campbell, the agriculture and natural resources agent for the K-State Research and Extension Cottonwood District in Hays. “They support the 4-H premium sale each year and are very supportive of donating to the city and county.”
“Anytime there’s something going on in the community, we try to support it,” Scheck said. “We’ve had a float in the homecoming parade every year and we donate things for the school and the church.”
“Victoria is a very clean community,” he added. “There are very few buildings in disrepair here.”
Inflation and supply chain issues have been major challenges for all those in the building industry, including Victoria Lumber. “It’s taking four months to get windows,” Scheck said. “A roll of copper wire that used to be $50-55 is now $202.”
Customer interaction is the element of the business he enjoys most. “I enjoy working with contractors,” he said. “If you don’t support your local business community, you’re not going to have a community.”
For more information on the business, see Victoria Lumber Company on FaceBook.
It’s nine o’clock at night. You are in the middle of a plumbing repair and don’t have the part that you need, but if you’re in Victoria, you can call Jim Scheck for help.
We salute Jim and Becky and Jared Scheck for making a difference with small business development and local customer service. When you get in a pinch, it’s a great relief to know you can call Jim.
Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are available at http://www.kansasprofile.com. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit http://www.huckboydinstitute.org.