McOmie is especially fond of the younger kids who come in, and she lets them make their own ice cream cones.
She enjoyed relating a story about one customer’s son who, when his family moved to Alaska recently, refused to go to the Dairy Queen in his new town – because “Miss Willi wasn’t there!”
Gordon French, owner of LJC Feed–Farm & Pet Supply in Washougal, has a similar drive to help children, and uses both his personal time and business to promote local youth, especially in the area of 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA) activities.
For example, French’s business offers a discount on supplies purchased for use in the feeding and care of 4-H and FFA show animals. His firm also donates to the trophy funds at the Clark and Skamania County fairs, and buys market animals at both fairs – spending $70,000 over the last 15 years. This money goes to support 4-H and FFA activities at the fairs. The animals are then returned to the fair market to be re-auctioned, with this second round of profits going to feed the hungry through the Youth Efforts Against Hunger (YEAH) organization.
“I’d do it even if I didn’t own the feed store,” said French.
“What you do with the community rewards itself tenfold, and it doesn’t have to be monetary,” he said.
French also donates his time – and equipment – spending ten solid days at the Skamania County fair, grooming the arena with the harrow and water truck, as well as six or seven other days spent doing the same thing during the rest of the year.
“We’ve had the store 16 years, and now the kids we bought animals from 15 years ago have their own children at the fair,” French recounted.
“There isn’t anything much more rewarding than that, to watch the cycle come full circle,” he said.
Just as French enjoys sharing his love of farming with local youth, Ed Fischer, co-owner of Camas Bike and Sport, spends countless hours introducing kids to the joys of biking.
“I try to get kids, and their families, on bikes,” said Fischer.
“It’s a healthy alternative to video games, and is something families can do together,” he remarked.
On Oct. 6, Fischer’s business is sponsoring the “Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day” at Lacamas Park. He also partners with the Vancouver Parks and Recreation department to organize trail trimming and trash pickup events.
“It’s important to teach kids stewardship,” said Fischer.
Another activity in which Fischer and his company participate include working with Bike Clark County, a nonprofit youth-advocacy group that provides bikes to kids in need and holds training camps to teach kids how to ride safely on the streets. In August, the New Seasons Market held a community fair, at which Fischer and his coworkers gave free safety checks to people’s bikes and made quick equipment adjustments where possible. They are also hosting beginner “family bike rides” every Thursday this fall.
“It’s more about the kids,” said Fischer.
“It’s not a business generator,” he pointed out, adding that many of the families and kids he interacts with at such events buy a bike from a department store such as Walmart or Target, not his shop.
McOmie, French and Fischer set a high bar for business owners in their concerted efforts to share their time and expertise with the younger generation.
“You can open a business and just do your thing,” said Fischer, “or it can be driven by passion.”