We started from scratch and built this business from the ground up. . .
Some families build their own business from the ground up. . .
The Lapointe family built theirs from the basement up—in their Pond Road home in Lewiston, Maine. What Fernand and Cal Lapointe founded in 1953 as a humble lawnmower repair service has grown into the thriving Lapointe's Lawn and Garden Center, now owned and operated by their son, Paul, and their daughter, Joline Lapointe Pelletier. The elder Lapointes, who developed a reputation for providing excellent customer service, are justifiably proud of their children for continuing their commitment.
"We started from scratch and built this business from the ground up. We worked real hard at it, seven days a week, long hours every day,"
Fern said. "We are very happy and very proud of them, and they’re doing such a good job,"
Joline and her younger brother Paul both started working in the family business as teen-agers. They purchased it in July 1987 and now share responsibilities as co-owners.
"We've worked here forever and ever," Joline said with a smile. Located on outer Sabattus Street, Lapointe's Lawn and Garden Center sells tractors, lawn-mowers, snowblowers, chain saws, trimmers, roto-tillers and chippers. A Toro/Wheel Horse dealership, Lapointe's also carries other leading equipment lines such as Exmark, Echo, Lawn Boy, Troy-Bilt and White.
The store sells parts. It services not only the equipment it sells, but also products purchased from other retailers. "When you buy something here, it's put together here, serviced, tested and even explained, in how to operate it.
"We have free delivery on new purchases and a guarantee backed up by qualified people who have been here for years. We always strive for good prompt service," Fern said.
Joline concurred. "Our store is not like the ones in the shopping malls. If the winter is wicked busy with snowstorms, we're here. During the ice storm of '98, even though we had no electricity and no heat, we were here until it was too dark for us to work. We don't close our doors like the malls do, following rigid schedules," she said. "We treat people like we want to be treated. If you need service or you have questions, we don't slam the door in your face."
Attention to service draws customers from a 45-plus mile radius. "A lot of familiar faces, sometimes newer generations of the same families shop from as far away as Jay, Rumford, Gray and Poland," Joline said, adding, "It's really nice to see second generation customers who did business with our parents come in."
Joline handles "the paper end of the business,"
answering the phone, ordering parts and sometimes doing sales. "We help customers arrange financing now, and we mail in warranties for them. They're all happy about that because then they don't have to worry about sending the papers in," she said.
"And if something is out of warranty and we feel the equipment shouldn't have failed, the suppliers will work with us to accommodate the customer."
Paul works on the floor with customers, in the repair shop and on the road, doing pickups and deliveries. He and their full-time staff, attend service schools to keep abreast of the latest changes and skills. Paul spends considerable time with prospective customers, asking questions and even traveling to view their property. Making sure that customer chooses the proper equipment for a job is critical to long-term satisfaction, he believes.
"We usually have pretty good luck matching the right product for the right job. A customer will be happier in the long run if he buys what he really needs," Paul observed.
Joline noted that with the popularity of their service shop, they can, at times get overwhelmed with the sheer number of projects needing their attention. "Our customers could really help us out and prevent long waits for themselves by bringing in their snowblowers for preventive maintenance before there's six inches of snow in their driveway," she said. "The same goes for lawnmowers, before their grass needs cutting every four days."
Nevertheless, whatever a customer needs, "We try to do the best we can—we try awfully hard," said Paul.