Perseverance, customer loyalty keep local businesses around for decades
McGee’s Stamp & Trophy and Pioneer Book share tips on prospering for decades
GRANT HINDSLEY, Daily Herald file photo
Amid a historically difficult period for businesses, at least two local establishments have been quietly celebrating about half a century of sales in Utah Valley.
Pioneer Book celebrated 40 years of business last year, and McGee’s Stamp & Trophy celebrates 55 this fall. (A sign thanking customers for the first 50 is on State Street in Orem.) Both businesses gave the Herald an inside look at their success.
When asked the secret of their success, Scott Glenn, partner at Pioneer Book, said, “Our customers.”
The customer base was first built in a small shop on Center Street by Richard Horsley in 1980. “Richard was just passionate about books and people knew it,” Glenn said. Horsley was also a “human computer,” according to Glenn. He knew the inventory and where everything was in his musty book piles. The store moved to Orem for a short time and moved to the current location in 2013. With the new space (and interior design consultation), Pioneer Book became a place that’s easy for anyone to browse and large enough to hold events.
In addition to Horsley’s ability to matchmake customers and inventory, the customer base has been built through events, rewards programs and customers’ literal investment in the store’s success. Glenn said the majority of the inventory is from customers bringing in their old books to trade for credit to the store. The store has also networked with Provo and Orem school districts through a program called Battle of the Books, which rewards students with store gift cards for reading. Though Richard Horsley has passed on, his son, Rick Horsley, has taken over the business to continue its prosperous tradition with Glenn, who was the store’s general manager before becoming a partner. The elder Horsely’s matchmaking can’t be duplicated, but a detailed computer database now lends a hand in helping customers know if they can find a specific book in stock.
Courtesy McGee's Stamp & Trophy via Facebook
COVID-19 has meant adaptation for most businesses, and Pioneer Book was no exception. However, Glenn said the bookstore’s profits actually increased in 2020. “Last year was our best sales year ever, and we’re doing it again,” he said. Glenn attributes this increase to customers feeling the store is a safe place to browse because they provided masks for those who didn’t bring them in 2020, and there is a natural ability to social distance. He also attributes the increase to the nature of the industry “People were reading more with events unavailable,” he said.
McGee’s Stamp and Trophy has also benefited from customer loyalty and adaptation. It was because of a customer that the founder and owner Jesse McGee started making trophies after selling rubber stamps and signs for a few years. It’s because of a loyal customer that the store is named what it is. “He said, ‘I know your name but keep forgetting the store name,'” McGee said. So, he made the names one and the same.
The store is likely to keep its name given McGee runs it, and three others, with his children. His daughters helped him explore accounting software recently, and his sons run three shops with him. They also have expanded their network by attending stamp and trophy conventions all over the country. Through these, they have kept up with innovations in the industry. The McGees said these innovations have meant a large increase in productivity. They used to make two to three stamps a day and now can make 50 to a 100.
With half a dozen methods of engraving and custom rubber stamps, McGee’s can personalize almost anything or send it to an associate who can. In a recent shop visit, there were statue-trophies ready for anniversary commemoration, corporate awards and leather bracelets waiting for custom inscription in the front. In the back was a corporate order for customizing 4,000 metal toiletry kits and an order to engrave Beauty and the Beast mirrors for a family reunion.
Despite the store’s extensive and innovative inventory, sales at McGee’s were down 57% once COVID-19 shut down schools. School closures meant making fewer office signs, plaques and trophies. “It just about shut us down, ” said Korey McGee, who works with his brother Kraig in the Orem store. However, sales from individual customers and other large clients, such as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, has kept them afloat along with loan options.
Rebecca Packard, Herald Correspondent
Originally starting in Jesse McGee’s basement and called Central Utah Rubber Stamp Company, McGee’s now has its largest store in Midvale, another location in American Fork and online orders from all over. They have 22 employees, some of which have been with them for more than a decade. Jesse McGee still oversees the accounts and runs items from store to store. “After 55 years, they have finally given me the top job. I am now the official go-fer,” he said.
When asked the secret of his success, McGee said, “Perseverance,” then showed off a custom-made sign in his Orem office that reads, “Thankfully! Perseverance is a great substitute for talent.”
Learn more about Pioneer Book at https://www.facebook.com/pioneerbook and https://www.pioneerbook.com/ or visit in person at 450 W. Center St. in Provo.
You can find McGee’s Stamp and Trophy in Orem, American Fork and Midvale or online at https://www.mcgeestampandtrophy.com/.