For nearly 26 years, Clyde and Dawn Eller have operated Eller's Fort Dick Market at the corner of Lake Earl Drive and Morehead Road, providing essential food, gas and deli services to travelers and local residents alike. Recently, Clyde Eller spoke about his experience as a small business owner.
Q: What do you do and how long have you been doing it?
Eller: Next month we will celebrate our 26th year in the business. We provide groceries, gas and deli/restaurant services to travelers and to local residents. We serve full breakfasts and lunches, and convenience style hot foods in other words; burritos, tacos, fried chicken, hamburgers, etc. We do have espresso and other drinks available inside and by the drive-through.
Our hours are 4:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. seven days a week. We attempt to make it very convenient for all potential customers. We also own the post office next door and lease it out to a contractor.
Q: What inspired you to go into this line of work?
Eller: I'm a psychologist by education, and I had a private practice and was working for the State of Arizona. One evening I received a phone call from my brother who owned the market and he asked me if I was interested in buying it, and my answer was Yes.' I have a degree in business as well as psychology, but I never thought I'd be running a country grocery store. So I was just seizing the opportunity when it arose.
Q: What training or education did you need?
Eller: My training in retail was extremely limited to a job I held while in high school. My business degree doesn't apply directly to running a business. So my wife and I and my son at the time jumped into it and operated the business alone for the first year. Then we hired one employee, and since then we've just responded to the needs of the community and as those needs grew, we grew our business.
Q: How has your business changed over the years?
Eller: Our business was significantly changed with the "arrival" of Pelican Bay State Prison. Prior to that we focused primarily on groceries and gas. With the arrival of the construction and full time Pelican Bay staff, we added our deli facilities. We have enlarged our footprint three different times over the years.
Q: How do you distinguish your business from your competitors?
Eller: I would hope that we are always people oriented, always remembering that without customers, we have no business. And remembering that service is the most important product we have.
Q: What advice could you offer to budding entrepreneurs?
Eller: Remember that without satisfied customers you have no business.