August 8, 2017
The beauty of a small, multi-generational family business, is having the opportunity to get to know our customers over a long period of time. Genesee Energy is in the business of bringing warmth into people’s homes. By filling that basic need, our customers are grateful, as we are grateful to them for their loyalty. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of our long time, loyal customers.
Herb has been a Genesee customer since 1960 when he moved to Beacon Hill. Because of this long-time relationship, all three Clark generations have had the pleasure of knowing him. Herb knew Russell Clark, one of the founding brothers, through the Genesee Merchants Association, of which Herb has been the Secretary/Treasurer for 30 years now. Herb also knows the second generation of Genesee, Don Clark, who Herb said he often ran into at the old Dunkin’ Donuts on Rainier Avenue, before it became Starbucks. And the third generation, Steve Clark, describes Herb as a kind and gentle man.
When we asked Herb why he’d stuck with heating oil and with Genesee all this time he simply said, “You guys take care of me. My philosophy is to be loyal to those that are loyal to you, that give you good service. Then you build a relationship of trust. That’s been my mantra in my profession too as a pharmacist and a small business owner. It’s to build a relationship with your clientele. And if you can build a relationship of trust, you’ve got something very intangible, but very precious. Very valuable.”
Very precious, indeed. After attending the University of Washington in 1958, where Herb received his education in pharmaceuticals, he bought the pharmacy on the corner of Rainier Avenue and Genesee Street. As a pharmacist, Herb doled out prescriptions. But as a loyal, gentle, kind man he, he gave his customers and the community whole lot more.
“My customers at the pharmacy appreciated personal service and the relationship I had with their families. Also, the fact that I would special order things for them and deliver if needed. It was a small business friendly type community. There were a lot of relationships built.”
As evidence of those relationships, on a few occasions, Herb taught driving lessons to a few of his customers’ children in the nearby Sick’s Stadium parking lot. “I guess they didn’t have anyone in the family that would teach them, so they asked me.”
Herbs commitment to this community goes back a long way. His parents came over from Japan, to work on the railroad in Montana, later moving to the central district of Seattle where Herb was born at Harborview. The youngest of 7 siblings, Herb was the only one born in a hospital.
Soon after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which resulted in defining the entire west coast a military area and thus called for the evacuation of all Japanese residents. Herb and his family were among the many families given little notice, then removed from their homes in Seattle.
“We lost everything… We just had a few weeks to pack up and leave.”
Ironically, while Herb spent his pre-teen years at the internment camp in Idaho, 4 of his older brothers served in the US Military. One served in an all Japanese American segregated infantry group in France. Another made several jumps as a paratrooper in Germany. The oldest brother was wounded twice and received 2 purple hearts, and the youngest, a Japanese translator in the Pacific for the US Military Intelligence.
Herb is now involved with a local theatrical production called Breaking the Silence. The production tells the story of the immigration of Japanese to America and their internment during WWII. The purpose is to educate people about that part of history.
In addition to that, Herb is a very involved father of 5, and grandfather of 12. It was such a pleasure interviewing and getting to know Herb a little better. He is quite a gem!