Take the next step on your journey

Informal interviews with homesteaders, cooks, gardeners and employees will help you take the next step on your journey to a simpler life. Escape the chaotic, stressful world for about seven minutes and learn how to live a satisfying life, enjoying time with family and friends.

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Chris Hess, Lehman's Store Manager and Treasure Finder

Lehman's store manager and treasure finder, Chris Hess, takes us through what it's like to oversee the day-to-day operations here at Lehman's. From the corporate retail world of Kohl's to small town Kidron, Ohio he talks what Lehman's simpler living tips he has taken home and what his interests are outside of the country living world of Lehman's and what he wanted to be growing up. Dive in with a Lehman's employee and stop by to say hello next time you're in the store!

Glenda Lehman Ervin: Welcome to Solutions for a Simpler Life. This is Glenda Lehman Ervin with Lehman’s on the square in Kidron, Ohio. We’re glad you joined us. Welcome to Chris Hess, Lehman’s store manager. Chris, tell me about the work that you do here and how long you’ve worked here.

Chris Hess: I’ve worked here almost a year. I think it’ll be a year the end of June. I do a lot of different things from operational to merchandising. I work closely with the Mount Hope location as well too, kind of planning out their day to day business along with here. Work with marketing, whatever I can do operationally to make sure that we run a tight ship and that we run financially sound and operationally focused.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: I also know you’re an expert at finding things we need in random warehouses and attics.

Chris Hess: Yes.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: I just asked him if he had an old ladder and he said I think there’s one in one of those buildings so we kind of tease him about being able to find everything.

Chris Hess: I think from a perspective of watching a lot of television and American Pickers I can kind of see value of stuff that some people might see as junk. So when we are going through these piles of what looks like asbestos in some buildings I kind of point out things that I think we could possibly make money on that your father might be interested to hang somewhere or just in general that we can use for whether it’s a tiny house or for some construction material later that I think people would be interested in.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: Yeah. You mentioned the tiny house. Tell me a little bit about that.

Chris Hess: It was a partnership with Old Hickory. I think you guys had the idea about a year ago I think we partnered with them. And it was just a way to convey to customers what they can do with anything from a smaller shed to a thirty six foot structure. Some of the things that they can do from that we were able to use some of our own old barn siding. We had ideas from other people as well to for things that we can come up with to give it that homey feel. Use a lot of our product to decorate it from a gas stove, to a propane tiny refrigerator. I think we’re going to incorporate some water pumps and things like that as well too. But there’s a lot of homesteady items that we could use in there. But I think whether it’s in your backyard, just to get away from the family, or do crafts in or actually to live on a homestead. I think Lehman’s has everything that’s provided that we could make you do whatever level of interest that you would want to do it.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: Oh that’s great. It’s about 200 square feet and it’s just outside Lehman’s retail store in the garden and it’s open whenever the store is open.

Chris Hess: Yes. And yeah you can always come check it out whenever you’re interested to see it. From our ribbon cutting this weekend we get a lot of positive feedback and we’re going to continue to add things such as solar panels, a sleeping loft, and the company was so pleased with what the outcome of the tiny house was I think eventually we’re gonna have even a higher end one with more bells and whistles and kind of go from there. But I think it’s going to continue to grow.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: I know we are. Excuse me in the process of setting up a landing page which will be lehmans.com/tinyhouse that will have videos and photos. It really is just 200 square feet of simplicity and practicality. I mean you’ve talked a lot about Lehman’s homesteading products. Do you have a favorite product from Lehman’s?

Chris Hess: I’ve tested a few things, butter churns and things like that. My wife and I are actually looking to get into chickens and we’re able to have five chickens on our property in the village that we live in. But we’ve tried everything. The sprout growers that Amy pushes, my wife’s big into. The butter churning we’ve tried from the test lab a couple of different things here and there but we always garden.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: So you did that before working at Lehman’s.

Chris Hess: Yeah yeah. And then I added some of these products on as well. We used to have a fairly large garden in our backyard we’ve kind of dwindled down over the years as the children moved out to college but now we actually use our back planting beds that are attached to our house and we grow tomatoes yearly and things like that. We actually grow tons of tomatoes. My wife cans salsa every year and makes a spaghetti sauce and things like that as well, so.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: She must be thrilled that you’re working here. You came from a corporate background at Kohl’s which is very different.

Chris Hess: Yeah.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: But some of those same principles you used in the big corporate environment I would think apply at Lehman’s.

Chris Hess: Oh yes without a doubt. Even though it was a big box retailer, there’s a lot of things that I learned from there that are very applicable to here as well. From running day to day business, to being more productive, and being profitable from that perspective. But then the customer service part of it was huge I mean Kohl’s was very driven about customer service. We had five things of criteria from customer satisfaction that we were heavily based on and I think those key attributes I’ve brought over to Lehman’s. And as we hire new employees and work with existing employees we continue to fine tune them and show them how to focus and how just little interactions with customers and conversations with customers, whether it’s bus tours and doing walk on tours and things like that can make a huge difference and really build your customer base and make you an authority for both homesteading, customer service but as a tourist site as well.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: Yeah I know that we have a lot of unique events here at Lehman’s so I don’t suppose you did chicken classes, pie baking, and goat yoga when you were a class.

Chris Hess: No none of that. My wife is a yoga enthusiast. However, I don’t think, maybe one time she’s ever done goat yoga but she’s always been interested and she loves goats. So if available she will definitely try to make her goat yoga here as well. But no, no classes.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: Well that is certainly something different here. What advice do you have for people who are just starting their journey to homesteading? Starting their journey to a simpler life?

Chris Hess: I would say based on conversations I’ve had with customers and we have some customers that are both going all in. putting their toe in the water. kind of testing it. It’s just a plan to exactly what you need to get started. I’m one of those people where I sometimes when I get into something new whether it’s motorcycling, or bicycling, or something. Don’t go out there and buy everything that’s relatable to it. Work with some of our employees to come up with what are the key areas or key items I need to get started first and then build from there. There’s no reason to spend a lot of money on some stuff you might need but there are some specific things that you do need to get started if you want to do it the right way.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: Well your example of raising chickens you can’t just go out and get chickens. You have to have a way to feed them and water them and contain them and bring them home to roost and that kind of thing. All right we’re going to switch to something a little more fun right now. What would your co-workers or customers be surprised to know about you?

Chris Hess: I mean the motorcycling thing always shocks people.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: And what do you mean by the motorcycling thing?

Chris Hess: The level of which it’s gotten to over the years. I’ve ridden all the lower 48 states. I’ve got an embarrassing collection of motorcycles at some point like where I even caution saying something because some people unless you’re a motorcyclist like a true motorcyclists they don’t understand. You get a weird look when I say I have seven motorcycles or something like that.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: So you have seven motorcycles?

Chris Hess: Yeah between you know… And I’m adding always but I came to the realization over the years not to sell them anymore. I always feel remorse when I sell bikes so it’s by keeping that. But that would be the biggest thing that you know there’s some people there’s a criteria of a country then there’s people that are just Harley Davidson hardcore which I’m not. I do have Harley Davidsons. I appreciate them but I’m also big into Italian bikes and things like that too and it’s shocking to the amount of people that are motorcyclists that have never heard of some of my bikes even though the companies have been in existence since Harley Davidson has so. But that’s always been a passion that was created.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: It sounds like you’re a bike connoisseur.

Chris Hess: Yes.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: What did you want to be when you were growing up. The store manager at Lehman’s? I’m guessing maybe not.

Chris Hess: No but no, definitely it’s a good career choice. The one I wanted to be the most was a special effects person in Hollywood.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: Oh yeah.

Chris Hess: When I was a little kid I used to build models and I actually there was a magazine called 1 2 3 Contact or something like that that I want a little competition when I was a kid because I made a Godzilla like set with towns and cities and it was 3-D and everything and sent that on. But I’ve always been huge in sci-fi movies and things like that and you know now they use CGI but back in the old days they would actually build models that looked realistic and things along those lines and that’d be something that I always really… Or being some level of Hollywood or directing or something like that because I’m huge in a cinematography I always notice those kind of things in movies.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: Do you still have that movie set?

Chris Hess: No.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: No?

Chris Hess: I got probably burnt.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: All right. Final question. How do you like to spend your free time?

Chris Hess: Motorcycling and bicycling. So two wheeled I’d say for the most part and with my family. So now that Wyatt is getting older, he’s going to be three and a half years old, hopefully he’s starting to pick up bicycling but that’ll be a really big one. And then maybe when he’s 16. The motorcycle aspect.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: How does Wyatt feel about Lehman’s?

Chris Hess: He loves it. Every time he goes in here makes a beeline to the toy department.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: Of course he does. Well hey this has been really fun. Thanks again Chris Hess, Lehman’s store manager in Kidron, Ohio. The next time you’re in our store stop by and say hello.

Chris Hess: Alright.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: Thanks Chris.

Chris Hess: Thank you.

Glenda Lehman Ervin: This is Glenda Lehman Ervin with Lehman’s where we stand for a simpler life. Thanks for listening. For more visit lehmans.com.

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