Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Selling with the Personal Touch

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Selling with the Personal Touch

Article excerpt

Twenty-seven years ago, I began to do business with a small Pennsylvania company owner whose simple device has helped provide me with great adventure, joy and excitement here and in six other states.

If paid hourly for its usage in our surf alone, I would be financially well off.

Norse Paddles of Springs Mills (perhaps the Neptune Beach of Pennsylvania) has supplied my kayak paddles since 1972. It is a most unique and quiet business.

In 1972, a newly arrived high school student saw me paddling my first kayak in the surf and waved me in. Feeling banished from kayak heaven, he was delighted to find a kayaker here. His lightweight paddle was a revolutionary discovery for me. I had been plagued with paddle failures for two years. I soon called the phone number on the decal.

"Hello," said a male voice.

"Is this Norse Paddles?" I asked, thinking I had mis-dialed.

"Oh, you want my son," he said.

The essence of simplicity that still is Norse Paddles was symbolized by that first exchange. Kayak and canoe paddles are precision instruments for boaters. Weight, balance, shaft diameter and design must feel just right for maximum performance in whitewater or ocean surfing conditions. You know how it is: Surgeons can use butter knives, but prefer scalpels.

Richard Brown is the son and owner. We have never met in person, yet I feel I know him. We have talked on the phone maybe 10 times. I have ordered paddles for friends, including one Beaches city councilman. A shop placed an order after hearing my accolades. (Despite Brown's advice, they ordered inappropriate designs due to inexperience and no longer carry them.)

My mental picture of Richard Brown is of a fit Al Borland dressed simply in red flannel and with a beard. After moving Norse a few miles to Spring Mills from Pine Grove Mills, they started answering the phone "Norse Paddles."

Once, he said he would ship my paddle the next day.

"But, I haven't sent you the check," I said.

"You will," he replied. The paddle arrived two days later, long before the check got to him and cleared.

Another time, he apologized for a possible delay. …

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