Before we sat down to start our interview, today’s guest took me (Anthony Crosby) on a tour of the headquarters for his business’ operation, an operation that he has been involved with and leading for six decades. The visit was beneficial as not only was I able to see and appreciate the size and scale of his company, I was able to catch quick glimpses of our guest in action. For example, he could tell something was off with one of his machines just by listening to the sounds it made. He walked around explaining every specific use for almost every piece of equipment in the building, all while dishing out high fives to his employees when they passed by. I realized this was a person who was as much a part of his work as it was a part of him.
Today, we’re joined by Jim (Jimmy) Meeks of Vogue Services. As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Jim has been a part of Vogue for what will be sixty years this June (2019). His family started the business a year before he was born, and he officially took over leading the charge in the ’90s. We’ll let Jim tells us more about that here shortly.
If you’re not familiar with Jim’s company, you can find Vogue Services, and its staff of around one-hundred-twenty-five men and women, on the South end of 5th St. where it’s been located for decades. They’re known for their dry cleaning; however, they also specialize in many other amenities such as embroidery, retail merchandise, commercial laundry and more in their regional operation that expands as far as Mammoth, California, and Tahoe.
All right, now let’s kick this conversation off! Thank you for joining us this week, Jim! Let’s start with this building we just walked through. How long has it been the home of Vogue, and how has it functioned for you all over the years?
“We moved into our current building, in 1961. We only owned the bigger section of the building; everything else, we bought and built over the years. We started at twenty-eight thousand square feet of space, and now we’re at fifty-six thousand square feet. There’s been a lot of change over the years. We started out doing household laundry when the total employment at the plant was eighteen people. Now, the closest we come to the home laundry work is dry cleaning; today, it’s all about the industrial department.”
Interesting! Now, let’s talk about your journey. Can you please share with us the story of how you’ve remained with this company for so long?
“The company was started in 1946, and I was born in 1947. My parents started the business down in Wells after my dad came back from the service in World War II. In the early years, my sister and I were out living on a ranch with our grandparents in Clover Valley. You learn a lot by living where there isn’t much; you make do with what you have. In those days, coming to town was special; everybody would take a bath the night before, and we’d all come into town the next day.”
“When I finally moved into town, I was older, around seven, because it was time for me to go to school. I started working here (Vogue) when I was twelve. I did essentially the same things my employees are out doing, now. I went into the service, myself, in 1967. When I got out, I went to college before coming to Elko and continuing my work here. Even throughout college, I would always come home and work during the Summertime. That’s essentially how I learned the business.”
“My parents died in 1995, and then I took over. My job at that time, and still is, was to find ways to expand the business. We were able to do this by expanding into Reno and finding other revenue streams. For example, back in the early days, we did a lot of the hotels and motels that were up and down Idaho St. We did that until the polyester sheet was invented. The first thing that happened was, the housewife realized she didn’t have to iron it, and if she didn’t sleep on an ironed sheet at home, she certainly wasn’t going to at a motel. So the motels went out and started getting their own polyester sheets. So, we had to adapt to that and pick up our uniform and restaurant business. When I took over, some problems could only be solved by expanding into other territories. However, this will always be our base; we’ll always be here in Elko. Elko’s been very good to us over the years.”
Jim let’s talk a little bit more about your relationship with Elko. As someone who has lived and worked here for longer than many individuals, what are your overall thoughts on the community and area?
“Many people have a hard time living in a small town, but I think that comes from wanting too much, too soon. You can get along with what you have right now, and you can build on tomorrow. Elko has always been a great place to grow up in, even back when there were only five thousand people here. Even though now we’re a diverse/modern city, we’re still a close community, and I think that’s often overlooked. I love the Summers and the Elko County Fair which I’ve been working for over thirty years. I like being able to walk down the street, see a friend I haven’t seen in a while and stop to talk and share stories with them. There’s nothing but opportunity here.”
Finally, from AAT to you, congratulations on your upcoming sixtieth anniversary at Vogue, Jim! Looking back at it all, what would you say you loved most about your journey?
“I loved being able to watch the business grow and tend to it over the years. It’s not about the money. Money is not the object; it’s about the results. I loved being able to try something and have a lot of fun while doing it. I’ve been able to get up every single day and never say that I didn’t want to go to work. To me, I’ve never worked a day in my life because this has always been a lot of fun! I’ve enjoyed every minute that I’ve spent here. I don’t know how I could have had it any better!”
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See you around, Elko!