Lehman’s President Galen Lehman celebrates a milestone birthday this month (April 12th to be exact). We’re not saying which milestone, but we will say the number is an even one and begins with a ‘5’ (ahem).
All kidding aside, Galen graciously answered the following 10 questions for us. Read on, and you’ll learn a lot about Galen, and Lehman’s, too. Happy Birthday, Galen!
Your age when you started working at Lehman’s: 15. I remember because they needed someone to haul trash to the dump and we were so short handed that I had to do it before I had my driver’s license! (That’s often how things are done in farming communities.)
Very first job you did and what it taught you: My first job was right here.Â And, what it taught me is that my Dad has pretty high expectations, but is also very forgiving.Â Over the 35 years that we’ve worked together, I moved from being a rebellious teenager who usually gave Dad a good bit of push back to counting him as my best friend who always had wise advice.Â Mom died in 1999, and when Dad remarried a few years later, he chose me as his best man.Â That was one of my proudest moments.
Favorite Lehman’s product(s) and why: My favorite product is the Aladdin lamp.Â Aladdin has a long heritage as a family owned company.Â The grandson of the founder helps run the company to this day.Â They started out as a great innovator, with their amazing and brilliant white light.Â Nearly a century later, the rest of the world has moved on to new ways of lighting.Â But, Aladdin keeps plugging away, constantly improving on their original ideas.Â Today, just as in the early 1900’s, they make the best lamp you can buy.
Favorite website (besides Lehmans.com, of course): Countrylife.net
Favorite part of Lehman’s store: I love things that last.Â We’ve always tried to carry products that will stand the test of time.Â So we’ve packed the store with hundreds of antiques.Â Even the building itself is made from antiques! This includes a 190-year-old log cabin, a 160-year-old log barn and the massive, towering timber frame barn that is our main lobby.Â When I look at those perfectly square, hand-hewn beams, I’m reminded of our farming heritage, of folks who took immense pride in producing genuine quality and of the value of hard work. (Click here for photos of the store.)
Favorite thing to order from the Cast Iron Cafe: I love the chili in a bread bowl.Â It’s a hearty mix of spicy chili and multi-grain, sweet, brown molasses bread that tastes good summer or winter.
The biggest surprise you’ve gotten in the last few years: I’m embarrassed to say so, but at one time I thought that no one could take care of customers like Dad and I did.Â However, as our business grew, it got to the point where I just couldn’t do it all myself.Â I hate to admit it now, because it seems prideful and foolish, but I was surprised to learn that every employee who shares my values of integrity, fairness and service would go to great lengths for our customers.Â Good folks share good values, and good values create acts of great giving.
What four-legged creatures currently share your property? Our sheep were past the age when they lamb well so we sold them last fall.Â At almost the same time, our herd of steers reached market weight.Â So, we sold them, too.Â That gave us one of those rare luxuries, a winter with very few chores!Â Right now, we have only our 26-year-old pony, who (being too old to ride) is living out her retirement years in restful sloth.Â Despite her occasional spiteful stubbornness, we love her. She even loves us back, if she’s in the mood.Â This spring we want to try hair sheep, who don’t require shearing like conventional sheep.
An amazing fact about you: I believe that many types of modern technology can damage our society and relationships.Â I often choose strangely old-fashioned ways of doing things because I value the feeling of accomplishment I get when the work is done. (For example, I often use a scythe instead of a gas-powered string trimmer and I usually reach for a hand saw rather than an electric one when I’m at my workbench.)Â One of my Amish friends once teased me I was more Amish than he was!Â But, despite these Luddite tendencies, I love to blog and have genuinely enjoyed making new friends on Facebook and Twitter .
A little-known talent you have: I can sit in a chair balanced on two legs without touching the ground, a skill learned (to my teacher’s chagrin) in high school algebra.
Most important lesson learned from your Dad (Lehman’s founder Jay Lehman): A few years after I started working here, a customer brought their wood stove in for warranty repairs.Â While the stove was in our shop, the manufacturer went out of business.
The repairs cost over $400, a princely sum in 1980. When the customer came to pick up the stove, I told the customer that since the manufacturer wasn’t going to pay for the work, he had to foot the bill.
As you can imagine, quite an argument ensued.Â My dad overheard and came running.Â He cut me off and graciously told the customer not to worry about it.Â He apologized by saying, “Galen should never have even mentioned this problem to you.”
Needless to say, I was humiliated.Â Later I protested to Dad that it wasn’t fair.Â It wasn’t our fault the manufacturer couldn’t stand behind their product.Â Dad looked me in the eye and forever changed my view of customer service.Â He told me, in a way that ended the discussion, “It’s not the customer’s fault either.”
At Lehman’s, we don’t debate issues.Â We solve problems.