When business is a family affair
July 21, 2005
It took Ken Hamilton about a year to learn how to repair an IBM Selectric, the so-called indestructible typewriter and 10-pound anchor that once dominated every American office.
Ken’s father, Bud Hamilton, 70, taught him the mechanics – and is still teaching him, his son said. The father-son team operate Hamilton Business Machines.
The family-run business isn’t just 9 to 5. It’s harder to get away on vacations and a falling bottom line hits closer to home. The Hamiltons said what keeps them together is a common work ethic.
“We’ve had a few conflicts when it comes to things like how to charge someone, but we’ve had a good working relationship for almost 15 years,” Ken said while standing outside his parents’ home in Carson Valley, also the location of their workshop.
The Hamiltons’ mission is to keep good equipment out of the landfill. Even though the demand for Selectric repair has slackened since Bud started out solo in 1991, his son works full-time with printer, copier, typewriter and fax machine repair. Ken, 39, joined his father in 1992. His mother, Jean, answers the phones when she’s not working as a nurse at Carson-Tahoe Hospital.
“He and Bud have compatible personalities,” she said. “Sometimes taking family into the business is not a wise thing – like my sister’s family. Her family was destroyed by going into the restaurant business together. But then these two have the same work ethic.”
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After 22 years of operating the Hair Studio in Carson City, Perry and Starr Nixdorf operate a business they love. But who will carry it on?
Perry’s eldest daughter went to beauty school, then decided to pursue a different career and have a baby. The couple’s eldest son, Andrew, worked at the salon for four years and took on a body-piercing apprenticeship under his father. But Perry said his son has moved on from the gauged earlobes, tongue and nipple piercings. Andrew works pierceless at a sports retail corporation in Reno.
Alan, their youngest son, is studying to become an electrician and has no interest in the salon.
“He worked in the salon when he was being punished; therefore, he never has wanted to work for me,” Perry said.
“He had to sweep the hair off the floor, clean and sit in the office and do his homework,” Starr said, then laughed.
Beauty is a tradition in the Nixdorf family. Perry’s parents operated a salon in Lake Tahoe and Toronto, Canada. Perry has a gray-tone photograph of himself as a smiling blond baby getting a haircut from his mother, Karin, in the Toronto salon.
His grandfather and grandmother owned a salon in Germany called Salon Reyer, their surname. Perry’s uncle was a traveling stylist who was shot by the German Security Service for telling his customers that the SS were dangerous.
“My mother learned how to do hair in that salon before she emigrated to Toronto,” he said. “She learned to be a master hairdresser there and her influence spread throughout our entire family.”
But for now the Nixdorfs have to wait and see about the future of the 198 W. Winnie Lane salon. Starr said it could end here. Then again, there’s always 1-year-old Moriah, their first grandchild.
Encore Consignment Boutique manager Esther Nelson, 23, and her business partner, owner Diana Garrity, learned how to cooperate while planning a wedding – Nelson’s wedding to Garrity’s son.
Running a successful family business requires that each partner contribute something special to its operation.
In Nelson’s case, it’s her style. She has a hard time not combing the racks for herself. That day she wore a floral-print skirt, low-hanging belt and coffee café T-shirt.
“She has a flair for this type of thing,” Garrity said about her daughter-in-law. “She turned out to be better than perfect for me. We think a lot alike. She has so much personality and creativity.”
They took over operation of the boutique on Feb. 1. Nelson said her mother-in-law handled all the paperwork involved with opening the business. Garrity, a teacher at Incline Elementary School, had shopped at Encore, 208 N. Carson St., for years before it came on the market.
Scared that it might turn into something else, she decided to buy it. But Garrity already had a full-time job. It was her son, Joel, who suggested his wife.
Nelson has an extensive retail background. She added some inventory, including formal dresses and maternity clothes. She also redecorated the boutique with a fresh coat of reddish-gold paint accents and Christmas lights around the dressing rooms.
“It’s inspiring to think how creative I can be, but it’s also intimidating sometimes about how much work there is,” Nelson said.
When things get hectic, the family rushes in to help her sort clothes or price items – proving to Nelson that it’s impossible to run even a small boutique alone.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.
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