by Bonnie Stichart
Before their first child was born, Marlon and Melissa Schafer had a dream. That dream was to raise their children in a rural environment, rather than a big city. To that end they moved to Odessa. There, in 1995, they found a niche selling office equipment.
Before long, the Internet became reality. Except in Odessa. It was too small for the large communication companies to bother with. So Marlon started providing Internet service in 1997. Within a year he was able to provide DSL – Digital Subscriber Line – to Odessa Hospital, his first customer. Another year and wireless service was available.
Marlon knew that people and businesses in small towns would find the Internet as useful as did people in cities. He turned out to be right.
Because he was right, Odessa Office Equipment no longer sells office equipment; they sell Internet service. The key word here is “service,” especially customer service.
We may be in the digital age, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t important. OOE values its customers; after all, many of them are neighbors and friends. One reason the customer comes first is because Marlon and Melissa are the only “investors” in the business. There are no outside investors whose dividends come before the needs of the customer.
There is no government involvement, either. Utilities are often subsidized by the government, but Odessa Office Equipment is not, nor has it ever been. Marlon is justifiably proud of building Odessa Office Equipment himself.
Marlon refuses to hold customers hostage to speed. All OOE Internet speeds are fast. The customer pays only for the data bits he uses. “The old model of price control via speed is not working well any more,” Marlon explained.
Odessa Office Equipment owns its own network; the equipment is similar to cell phone towers. They don’t use satellites, so your information is not beamed through space. The local network is even better than satellite.
Odessa is in the name, but OOE provides Internet service for a much larger area. Odessa Office Equipment Internet is available in Lincoln county, as well as parts of Grant, Adams, Douglas, and Spokane counties. Being local is a plus in many ways; customers are people, not faceless “consumers,” – when you meet your Internet service customers while shopping at the local grocery and attending local events, it is easy to be personal. Much of the money that comes into OOE is returned to the community.
Marlon wants to stay focused on Internet service, so Odessa Office Equipment doesn’t sell computers. But Marlon and his employees are more than happy to advise their customers and help them choose the equipment that will best serve their needs. OOE will also service and repair computers – both on-site and remotely.
Besides Marlon and Melissa – who are a team in both their personal and business lives – Odessa Office Equipment has three employees, both full-time and part-time. They are all happy to aid a customer’s search for the Internet service that will be of the most use.
When it comes to community, it’s hard to know where Marlon-the-individual ends and Odessa Office Equipment starts. Having raised three children in Odessa, the Schafers are naturally involved in local school and youth activities. They are also involved in the Lions Club and the Chamber of Commerce; one of Marlon’s pet projects is the annual Deutschesfest that takes place the last weekend of September.
Marlon was a founding board member of WISPA – Wireless Internet Service Providers Association – a national association of independent Internet providers that helps them deal with government regulations and provide better service for their customers.
To make contacting them easy, the staff at Odessa Office Equipment can be reached by phone at 509-982-2181, by e-mail at email@example.com, or you can take a look at what they offer at the website – www.odessaoffice.com. The website has interesting information on both the history and the future of Internet service. Customers are always welcome to come into the office, which is located at 107 S. 1st Street in Odessa. The office hours are 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. For anyone who is off-the-grid – and doesn’t want to be – the mailing address is P.O. Box 489, Odessa, WA 99159.
“We like to talk with people,” Marlon said. He also likes that his customers talk with people. “Satisfied customers are our best sales people,” he added with a smile.
The Internet is here to stay, and people like Marlon and Melissa Schafer and Odessa Office Equipment want to keep it affordable and easy to use. Give him a call, send him an e-mail, or visit him at the office. Local and independent businesses – such as Odessa Office Equipment – are the type of enterprise the Huckleberry Press is proud to support.