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Woodmansee`s Office Supply | 01/08/2013
When he comes to work each day, Joe Woodmansee is surrounded by family tradition, loyal employees, a lot of pens and a lot of repeat customers.
"We`ve had a very loyal customer base," he said.
For more than three decades, Woodmansee has continued running the family-owned store that his grandfather Harry opened in downtown bismarck in 1914. Joe took over when his father, Joe Sr., retired in 1979. "In a way, it`s an honor to be the third generation," he said.
This year, the store marks 99 years of selling office furniture and supplies, outlasting many large competitors. Woodmansee says they excel at providing customer service and private label marketing has aided their ability to compete with the big box stores. "We`ve been able to compete with them on a marketing strategy. We have a private label, just as they do, which gives us a competitive spirit with them."
Woodmansee says the office supply business has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. And they`ve had to change their product line to keep up with changes in technology, such as laser jet printers. But you can still buy an old-fashioned typewriter ribbon. "It`s happened so quickly. We went from typewriter, fax machine to computers and the web. We`ve just had to change in a hurry."
Those changes include renovating the second floor of the 1899 Henry building into an office showroom, as well as adding a website to handle online sales. Woodmansee made a conscious decision a few years ago to remain downtown, but walk-in traffic isn`t what it used to be. The majority of their business now comes from outside sales.
"We do have downtown businesses who support us, but 99 percent of our business goes out the back door."
That business includes office furniture supplies of all shapes and sizes that`re supported by a long-time sales staff. Woodmansee jokingly says that he hopes he`s around for the day the store hits the century mark. But he`s the embodiment of the motto, "Bigger isn`t Always Better."
This evening, Woodmansee`s is seeking approval from the Bismarck city commission for new signage on the storefront on Fourth Street.