Customers can watch the rollers, brushes and bubbles at Classy Chassis’ tunnel wash convert their vehicles to sparking clean automobiles.
They can also get their vehicles vacuumed, or serviced, or they can pick up a cup of espresso and a pastry at the Lakewood business’ specialty coffee stand - Classic Coffee. But more than anything, what customers get is quality service guaranteed- a value that owner Corey Campbell first instilled in his employees since he started doing business in Lakewood nearly three decades ago. Generations of customers and staff can attest to that commitment to customer service, something that Campbell says is a great source of pride, especially in the Lakewood community. “We’ve been very community-centric,” Campbell said recently from Classy Chassis’ flagship location at 7701 Custer Rd. W. “It’s about having a pulse on the community and the community having a pulse on us.”
If anyone would know about Lakewood, it would be Campbell.
A Lakewood resident since 1990, Campbell’s first incarnation of Classy Chassis was of the mobile variety. At only 16 years old and operating out of his car, he would drive to various locations and offer on-the-spot car detailing services, and many of his business opportunities were in Lakewood. After college, he continued the detailing business, this time, operating from a panel truck and expanding his services to include car washing.
Eventually, Campbell opened a retail location in Lakewood and later moved operations to his campus off Custer Road West.
The road wasn’t easy, Campbell recalls.
“I had 14 banks tell me it’s a risk for a 24-year-old to go and build out something that’s heady and never been done before in this region,” he says. But more so than any building or mobile wash, Campbell says one of the biggest keys to the longevity and success of Classy Chassis has been nearly 1,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal staff whom he’s employed over the years. For many of them, Classy Chassis was their first exposure to responsibility and accountability - another detail that makes Campbell extremely proud. Some employees turned the opportunity into lifetime careers. Campbell says his Classy Chassis has been more than a successful business endeavor. It has been a place where many young people received the foundations of a professional career and strong family values.
“This is a family business,” he says. “We really try to be a mentor and leader in their [employees’] lives.
Today, Classy Chassis offers state-of-the-art, professional washing and detailing, express lube services, coffee and refreshments on its campus. For many in Lakewood and beyond, it has become a regular stop, where workers recognize customers’ names and faces. In all, it offers a combined six full- and self-service locations in Pierce County. Campbell says the community has been extremely supportive, which is why being a community-oriented business is so important. Classy Chassis offers year round fundraising for non-profits, free car washes for members of the military on Veterans Day and actively supports community causes. Over a half-million dollars has been donated or given in kind to the communities. Campbell is a well-known figure among local businesses. That isn’t likely to change anytime soon, says Campbell, adding that Lakewood offers a great climate for small businesses. Much like it has during its initial 25 years in Lakewood, Classy Chassis will continue to evolve and adapt, and by doing so impact the lives of its employees, as well as the Lakewood community as a whole, for the better.
For its longstanding and continued success in the community, the City of Lakewood recognizes Classy Chassis as its December 2016 Business Showcase.
Hess Bakery & Deli
Often times, the highest quality comes from perfecting the simple things.
Such is the case with Hess Bakery & Deli, the Lakewood institution that has built a reputation of offering the freshest and most authentic German baked goods, sandwiches and groceries anywhere in the South Sound.
Customers won’t find fancy contemporary creations or food that explores new ground. In fact, it’s quite the opposition. They will find traditional German staples, everything from soft pretzels to rye sourdough bread to landjaeger dried sausage.
It’s the reason that the business at 6108 Mt. Tacoma Drive Southwest has built a loyal following since it opened in 1963. It first catered to military personnel on what was then known as Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, but today its reach extends up and down the Puget Sound region.
“We are a scratch bakery. Everything is made by hand,” said Joanie DeGrande, who along with husband John are co-owners for the shop.
“I’ve known generations of people since when they were little kids,” said Dario “Kiki” Cardenas, who started as a baker for Hess nearly four decades ago and today is the other co-owner. “I gave them candy. They’re in their 20’s and 30’s now. I still give them candy.”
Those longtime customers know the story of Hess Bakery & Deli well.
Tony and Hilda Hess, the store’s namesakes, immigrated and settled in the South Sound. Tony Hess was a trained baker, but there wasn’t enough money in war-ravaged Germany. At first, he went door-to-door, selling and delivering bread on Fort Lewis and McChord. Cardenas said following World War II, many members of the military married German women who yearned for bread, meat and other food popular in their native country.
“He found out it could be a great business,” Cardenas said of Tony Hess.
Business picked up so much, in fact, that the couple opened a small store and deli on Bridgeport Way, not far from its current location. As the store’s reputation traveled by word-of-mouth throughout the local German community, Hess Bakery & Deli was regularly packed with customers.
“Those were the hardest-working owners around,” Cardenas said about Tony and Hilda Hess. “There was nothing beneath them.”
From the start, Hess has always been a family run business with longtime employees. For instance, Cardenas became Hess’ first major baker – other than the Hesses themselves – in 1978. He had grown up in Germany and attended baking school there before coming to Lakewood. The store has seen other employees work 20, 30, even 40 years.
In 1980, Tony Hess built the brick building that currently houses the shop. In 2006, around the time Tony Hess passed away, the Hess family sold the store to Cardenas and Joanie and John DeGrande after some 45 years of being family owned.
True to their word, the current owners have kept to the same formula that the Hesses perfected. The baked goods, the imported products, the handmade sandwiches – they’re all of the highest and most authentic quality.
The bakery doesn’t do wholesale because, frankly, it doesn’t need to. The shop’s most popular items are pretzels (which come in traditional, roll and stick form) and rye bread, which today is made with non-processed flour.
The deli features fresh meats and cheeses and is a popular lunch or dinner option. Nearly all of the products on the store’s shelves and in its refrigerators are imported directly from Germany or are products locals might find in a German store. Even the chocolates and gummy bears, Cardenas says, actually taste like the products one would find in the old country.
In essence, a Hess customer could pick up authentic German pretzels or bread, meat, beer, geschnetzeltes, soda, beer, laundry soap and a magazine all in one stop.
Despite its longstanding popularity, Hess built its success without any major advertising, which speaks to the importance of loyalty among the local German population, the owners say. Of course, they welcome all newcomers, whether they’ve traveled to Bavaria or not.
“It is a very unique store,” John DeGrande says. “There are so many people that come in here with questions, and we walk them through. We’re still a family store.”
For its more than 50 years of success and commitment to the community, the City of Lakewood recognizes Hess Bakery & Deli as its November 2016 Business Showcase.
Lakewood might not have realized it, but Alicia Barrett knew that the community needed Tuladhara Yoga.
According to Barrett and the millions of other people worldwide who practice it, yoga is fun and offers mental, physical and emotional benefits. Increased energy, cardiovascular and strength-building, improved focus and concentration – the list goes on and on.
But for newcomers, yoga can be intimidating, especially given some widely held stereotypes and misconceptions of the ancient Indian practice.
That’s why Barrett, a Lakewood native, chose this particular community when she opened her studio – located at 7304 Lakewood Dr. W, Set 12, next to H&L Produce and Casa Mia. She envisioned a place where anyone could practice yoga and feel comfortable and welcomed.
“A community like Lakewood that’s diverse and has people of all backgrounds may not be using yoga to its fullest,” Barrett says. “We want to be a studio that’s inclusive. People have these perceptions or stereotypes about yoga, and we’re really trying to dispel all that.”
For adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the biggest obstacle to reaching one’s potential often is the lack of a chance.
For nearly 50 years, Lakewood-based Centerforce has been the bridge for those individuals in search of a chance at gainful employment. For various reasons – the stigma of hiring a developmentally disabled individual, the lack of a “connection” who could get them a first job, parents who are hesitant to allow their child into the workforce, etc. - it’s especially hard for individuals with disabilities to get that first job.
That’s one of the reasons the services performed by Centerforce – a nonprofit organization located in the Springbrook neighborhood – is so important, according to Executive Director Debby Graham. She has worked with Centerforce for nearly 20 years.
Centerforce has connected countless individuals with disabilities – all of whom are referred by the State of Washington – with opportunities in food, janitorial, grounds-keeping, technology and other services in Pierce and South King County.
As for the businesses who partner with Centerforce and ultimately benefit from contracting or flat-out hiring its clients and earn a tax break– whether it’s Burger King, Burlington Coat Factory or Old Country Buffet, even Joint Base Lewis-McChord - the rewards can be even greater.
“That's one of our unique characteristics - we develop longtime relationships with businesses and support them,” Graham says. “Some employers just aren't sure, and we can provide that link.”
By The Numbers
Centerforce’s roots stretch to 1968, when a group of concerned parents started what-was-then called the Pacific Care Center to emphasize teaching daily living skills to intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals.
In 1981, Centerforce evolved to focus on vocational rehabilitation by providing employment education, training and skill building. Its prior location was a warehouse near the I-5/SR 512 intersection before it moved to its current location at 5204 Solberg Drive Southwest nearly two decades ago.
One look at the nonprofit’s numbers today illustrates how much it has grown since its humble roots, as well as the reach it now enjoys in the community. In the 2015-16 fiscal year, the organization:
Served 821 individuals. That consisted of 262 individuals with disabilities and 616 Springbrook community residents
Received almost all of its revenue from government funding, grants, contributions and commercial services such as janitorial, grounds-keeping and Hometown Dogs, its mobile hot dog truck
Was able to provide nearly $83,000 worth of uncompensated services to clients thanks to community contributions.
In September 2016, its clients received nearly $25,000 worth of wages – wages that most likely wouldn’t have been made without their work.
What the numbers might not necessarily illustrate is how maintaining gainful employment can change clients for the better, whether they live with cerebral palsy, a brain injury or any other obstacle.
Development Director Rick Guild says there are countless stories of how clients’ lives have changed thanks to Centerforce. There’s Jason, who before his job was scared to ride the bus for fear of being bullied and wouldn’t talk to anyone. Today, Jason is an “All-Star” at his technology job and is a regular transit rider.
“Being around folks with limitations really opens people's eyes to their abilities,” Guild says. “They are capable of so much and they care. They have a deep emotional connection to others.”
The need to connect adults with disabilities with gainful employment doesn’t look like it will fade anytime soon.
Currently, there is a waiting list for adults with disabilities to work with Centerforce.
The truth is that, according to Graham, when people are deciding which organization they should contribute money to, those that assist adults with disabilities don’t jump to the top of the priority list.
“That’s what keeps me going,” she says. “Our population is often the quiet population. We work on their behalf.”
In terms of its future, Centerforce is planning how it can better serve its clients and the community.
The organization says the City of Lakewood has been a tremendous partner and supporter of Centerforce. It loves the improvements the City has made to sidewalks, roads and infrastructure in Springbrook – a neighborhood to which it is intrinsically connected.
For its success, service and contributions to the community, the City of Lakewood recognizes Centerforce as its October 2016 Business Showcase.
Diamond Designs Unlimited
Few things are guaranteed for small, independent business owners.
But in the case of Lakewood’s Diamond Designs Unlimited – where each piece of jewelry is unique and crafted to the finest quality - owner Shawn Luvaas keeps a promise for new and longtime customers.
It’s a promise that has helped Diamond Designs build and maintain a loyal following for nearly 25 years.
“I guarantee you’ll see something you’ve never seen before,” he said recently during a break from a steady trickle of walk-ins.