BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Rarely can someone be found that has been working in the same job for ten years, much less forty. It takes a special and unique blend of character traits to not only work somewhere with that longevity, but to do so with consistency. Determination, endurance, patience…these are each qualities of a man or woman that is to be highly admired. David Dutton, long time salesman at Washburn’s Home Furnishings embodies the character that every man hopes to have and they would hope their children to have.
Seeing David at Washburn’s is just as expected as seeing furniture when someone walks through the doors to be served. His consistency is to be admired, a consistency that has led to 47 years of faithful service to Washburn’s and the people of Polk County. No, that is not a misprint, David has worked at Washburn’s for 47 years, four decades worth of shaping and changing the lives of people around him. Originally, he didn’t start in the furniture business, David was roofing for a living and was soon to be married. A few weeks before getting married, David and his wife, Maureen, needed furniture so they went down to Washburn’s to see what they could buy. While at the store, he was approached about a job. The store needed another delivery driver, but David was satisfied with roofing. “We were poor as snakes. Washburn’s was only offering $1.60/hr and I was already making $2.25, I just couldn’t leave for that,” recalls David. He went back to roofing and one day at work someone hollered at David on the roof while his boss worked next to him. It was one of the delivery drivers from Washburn’s, he yelled, “Mr. Washburn wants to know if you are still interested in the job?” David was shocked, he thought for sure that his boss would be upset. “He told me, I know you are getting married, we are about to come into a slow time. Go check on the job, you will always have one when you come back,” says David thankfully. Washburn’s would help David make up for that difference in pay, he worked 55-60 hours a week, 6 days a week.
David started on a Saturday with a task that he still remembers clearly today. “They had an old, greasy electric range that I spent half a day cleaning on. I thought that if everyday was like this I may go back to roofing,” recalls David jokingly. At the time, there were two full time salesmen at the store before one of them left. Gene Rose, one of the salesmen, talked Mr. Washburn into letting David try out sales part-time. With a blink of an eye, and at the age of 21, David was a deliveryman and a salesman for Washburn’s. Although you wouldn’t know now, David was scared to be a salesman. “I didn’t have a clue about being a salesman, I had never done sales and I wasn’t sure how it would go,” recalls David like it was yesterday. It took David two to three years before he could build a good customer base. “I was just a kid, every time somebody came in they wanted to see Gene, or Mr. Washburn,” laughs David.
The benefits of working in one place for a long time is ample, but one of the biggest blessings is that the people working around you become like family. Just as consistent as David has been at Washburn’s, the leadership has been steady through the years. It started with Omar Washburn and now the legacy of personal service is carried on by Gar and Debby. Mr. Washburn was a great businessman and an even better role model for David. “Mr. Washburn’s philosophy was that the last person the customers would see is the delivery person and so they were the most important part of the chain. What we did in their home, the way they were treated would determine if they came back,” explains David. This type of personal care is what has been exemplified in David’s long career at Washburn’s. Customers trust him, they know that David genuinely wants to serve them, and this attitude has earned him great respect. “I have never viewed myself as a salesman, I am an order taker. You tell me what you need, I will tell you what we have, and I will do my best to serve you,” states David. Throughout his time serving at Washburn’s, David has grown to love the people he works with and serves in the community. With a smile on his face, David recalls a funny memory with one of the other salesmen, Jeremiah. “He was just a kid when he started working here. Often I would go pick him up for work and had to wake him up and get him out of bed just to get him to work.” Now, twenty plus years later, David and Jeremiah are still enjoying their friendship. Many things have changed about the appliances and furniture at Washburn’s, but one things remains the same, the people are still as genuine as ever, especially David.
Four decades the community has received the blessing to be served by David, a blessing that will be greatly missed as he retires at the end of this month. It seems odd that upon entering the store David won’t be able to be found, after all, many adults in the community can remember shopping in Washburn’s as a kid, and now they are taking their children. “I will miss this place. They can’t fully get rid of me, like a bad penny I will keep coming back,” jokes David.
During retirement, David plans to spend as much time as possible with his kids and grandkids. He and Maureen have two daughters and one son so they have plenty to keep them busy. Not only will there be a void for customers, but for David as well. “I have done this for almost 50 years, I don’t have many hobbies, but my brother bought a new bass boat and has bugged me for two years to retire. I guess I will be out on the lake with him,” smiles David. Washburn’s will be celebrating David and his work at the store this Friday, January 20, and encourages everyone to stop by and which him well in his retirement.