Alki Lumber is one of those places here in West Seattle that may just still be a secret.  Although… word is getting out.  The lumber yard looks very intimidating from the outside….

Big contractor trucks, coming and going all day…….the place brisling with activity none stop from opening gate to close.

You almost have to “fire yourself up” to park and go in.

There is a reason for this,………..it is simply one of the greatest hardware stores you have ever been in. 

 

There is a group at Alki Lumber that I like to call “The Rat Pack” (they’ll probably beat the hell out of me the next time I go in).  I use to the term out of respect…….only to make comparison to the great classical singer’s of yester year…… Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Dean Martin,……..

 Jim, Dean, Tom, Bill, Jerry, Jim, Chris, and Don have been there for a very long time.  They have seen it all.  And they are the best in the business.

 You see….. through all the craziness that surrounds you when you arrive……if you run into one of “The Rat Pack”…………the world almost suddenly stops and all of their attention is entirely focused on you.  This,… in a way,.. kind of shocks you. You’ve never experienced this level of service at a hardware store.  You explain what you need and you quickly hear the words:… “Follow Me”

Upon arrival of your product, you then see more than what you were hoping for……..Alki Lumber only stocks the finest materials at a very fare price.  You take your time…..trying to figure out how “perfect” gets “more perfect” as you wade through the material……..and still, right there……is one of the guys waiting patiently for your decision.

You pick what you like………….and then hear the words:…. “Go to the office”.  By the time you get to the office and pay………your oversized items have already been loaded in your vehicle.  You’re done.

Contractors know this.…….They wait for the gates to open in the morning………and sometimes “stress” that the gates are about to close at night.

It all starts at the top w/ Jim and Dean and then just trickles down from there.

 

 

After I built our house in 2006, and had moved in……..I called Jim and asked if he had a job opening.  No worries he said.  I had known Jim for a long time.  I had gone to school with his two girls’.  They were good friends of mine.  Lynn and Lisa where very good people, super cool and fun to hang out with and just “chill”. Great friends.

 

 

Sometimes when you’re a teenager……….the relationship becomes strained between child and parent. 

“Conversation”…..is obviously a two way street…… 

 There is a lot of: “talk, talk, talk”..……on the one side

 And a lot of: “talk, talk, talk” ……on the other side. 

Sometimes things get lost.  With all the “talk, talk, talk”…… that is going on……

The important things that go “missing” are the: calm, listening, understanding and relating part.

 Sometimes the distances between the two parties (parent and child) is so great that the weaker of the two (me) will become lost and go elsewhere for guidance.

This is where “The Sweeney house” came in. It was household of incredible calm. Each member of the family had the incredible ability to listen.  I remember a couple conversations I had with Jim back then……. I would lightly describe my current plight and he would calmly listen and then return this story of similar reference and in the end it all sort of made sense.  His wife Judy was the same way.  I learned many, many things those few years……… most importantly…….the “listening” and the “calm” part.

 

 

Twenty years later……….

 

 

When Jim hired me on to help at Alki Lumber he knew of the MS.  I’m sure it didn’t even matter.  He would take what ever he got from me.  I was very grateful for the job and just the opportunity to get back into the workforce.  The temperature was still cool in the late spring and the heat intolerance of the MS had not shown its ugly face yet.

As things started to heat up in the summer months my hours became fewer and fewer…….come July, I was then taking many days off…….my employer (Jim/owner/Alki Lumber)…….never a question……accepted what ever I could give.

Then the day came……when the summer heat had finally beaten me and my MS down……

 

“Hey Jim…………you got a minute?”

Sadly I had to ask Jim to be let go.  He knew that I had fought the MS and myself the whole summer with that job.  He knew that I had to rest all the time just to give him the few hours a day that I could.

 And then it happened……….

One of the more powerful West Seattle business men…… standing behind a pile of invoices atop his desk in the middle of a busy, chaotic, summer day, with phones ringing like crazy…..calmly says to me:

 

“What kind of life is that?”

 

and there it was……

we talked.

And talked

And talked some more………just like twenty years ago……in an instant……it went from business chaos……..to genuine regard to my personal wellness.

He was conserned with how I was living my life.  Others….. may have been pointing it out…..but it had never sunk in until that moment.  Maybe it was the fact that I had to admit defeat w/ the job? 

What ever it was…….he was there….he asked…..it was OK……and the “calm” really made it all sink in.

 

Jim just has that impact on you.  He taught me many things. None more important than this:

 

That of all the gifts you could give someone………..

 ………”patience”, “listening” and “calm” are some of the greatest.

 The love is just automatically included in all that.

 

I’m getting much better Jim……between your lessons and those of my wife……the kids are turning out pretty good. The wife and I are very proud of them.

Lo and Nate baseball 2009

 Thanks Jim, much love

 Be well, Your Friend

Todd Small 

 

 

 

 

 

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