Working in Evergreen

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A Labor Day tribute to businesses in our community

By Sandy Barnes

The workforce in Evergreen is made up of people who prepare food, repair worn shoes, develop social media skills for businesses and individuals, and manage nonprofit organizations that benefit the local and global community. They are among many people who help make Evergreen a thriving, viable place to live.

A restaurant family

Hla Win is a sushi chef with a fairly new restaurant in Bergen Park where he, his wife and son spend many hours preparing food and serving customers.

“We work together; we respect and understand each other,” says Win. “Customer is like family too."

Walking around his Sushi Win restaurant, Win explains how he manages his business and makes it pleasing for customers.

“When a customer comes in, everything is fresh,” says Win. “We change everything every day.”

Win and his family make sure the tablecloths and napkins are clean and the floor is freshly scrubbed. Win says the floor is cleaned four times a day. An air purifier hanging on a wall also helps keep the atmosphere of the restaurant fresh.

To ensure the quality of ingredients in the sushi he prepares, Win checks the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer every four hours.

For Win and his family, a challenge is not keeping customers waiting too long when the restaurant is busy. Thursday through Saturday, most of the tables are full, he said.

“We get a little nervous” when trying to accommodate a restaurant of people waiting to be served, he says.

When preparing sushi, Win says, he remembers that people “eat with their eyes first.”

And Win creates plates of food that have visual appeal, which he says customers occasionally photograph before eating.

Win has applied for a liquor license for the restaurant, which he says will help increase the volume of his business in the future.

A native of Burma, Win immigrated to the United States in 1997. After learning the art of sushi preparation at a school in California, he began working as a chef at Walmart in El Rancho several years ago.

Teaching social media skills
For Heather Galaska, essential tools of her trade are a laptop computer, iPhone and a colorful website describing her Social Media Maiden service.

Galaska spends her days helping clients develop business contacts through frequently used social media networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

“I do the full gambit,” Galaska says. “Twitter is gaining momentum."

Meeting with clients in coffee shops and at their places of business, Galaska consults about their needs and creates a plan. She also does website management for small businesses that already have websites and social media accounts.

“The website is the center of your circle,” says Galaska. “You can target different agencies and networks.”

While much of her time is spent with established businesses that need additional marketing tools, Galaska also helps individuals gain social media skills.

“I just set up an account for a gentleman doing a job search,” she said. “I definitely can help the individual as well.”

Galaska says she spends the first hour she meets with a client learning about his needs and interests and also creating connections.

“We get to work,” she says.

If a client is interested in using Twitter, Galaska helps him set up an account and learn to send tweets on his iPhone. She also shows people how to receive tweets on their computers.

Galaska also spends time helping businesses connect with one another through social media.

“We’re all here to help one another,” she says.

Galaska started her service two years ago at the suggestion of Evergreen insurance company owner Kent Huff, with whom she was working at the time. She has also worked with the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce, for which she has led workshops.

 “I love what I do,” says Galaska. “I feel so blessed to be that marketing extension for a service.”

Soleful enterprise

For the past 37 years, Steve Repaz has been repairing footwear at his shop in downtown Evergreen.

“I work and take care of customers,” Repaz says of his years managing and owning Evergreen Boot and Shoe Service.

Sometimes Repaz is so busy that he turns down work. But he accommodates most customers who walk through his door.

Repaz spends the better part of his days replacing worn soles and heels and stitching torn parts of footwear. However, he also sells items at his shop, including shoe polish, laces and knives.

On a particular morning, a woman comes into the shop looking for shoe laces for a pair of boots. Repaz brings her a package that contains a long pair of laces and tells her to return them if they're not the right size.

When he repairs shoes, Repaz says, he focuses on doing the work correctly.

“I want to be in a business where the effort and quality of your work shows,” he says.

If he sees a problem with a repair before a customer comes in to pick up shoes or boots, Repaz says he completely redoes it.

Over the years, the materials with which Repaz works have changed to some degree.

“Adhesives are different,” he notes.

But he still uses leather and rubber to refurbish cowboy boots and leather shoes on the machines in his shop, on which he repairs rips and replaces worn-out soles and heels.

And Repaz still uses a two-color ticketing system to keep track of customer payments. A green ticket indicates that a customer has prepaid for a repair, and a yellow one lets Repaz know that payment is due.

“It’s a matter of cash flow,” he says while stamping numbers on tickets beside a sign in his shop that reads: “No Loafing.”

Focusing on nonprofit enterprises
Evergreen resident Brenna Vaughn splits her time between four offices while managing two nonprofit organizations and also organizing fund-raising events.

“I can be found most often with a laptop (computer) and cell phone,” she says.

In her role with the Hydro Research Foundation, Vaughn serves as program director for efforts to develop technology in the area of renewable energy. The foundation awards fellowships to college students pursing studies at the graduate level.

“It’s important because we need education and research on hydro-power,” says Vaughn.

As executive director of Into Your Hands Africa, a nongovernmental organization focused on youths in Uganda, Vaughn helps develop and manages educational and enterprise programs in the developing country.

“My role is to help donors connect with students,” Vaughn says. “We work with lots of community members in Evergreen to support 183 scholarships.”

Vaughn arranges two trips a year to rural villages in Uganda, where she and others in the organization work with staff and students at high schools and those in higher education.

The students are engaged in enterprise education, learning skills such as how to raise livestock, says Vaughn.

Vaughn also coordinates the annual fund-raising dinner for Into Your Hands-Africa. This year’s event is at the Lucky Penny Ranch in Evergreen on Sept. 12.

In addition to managing two nonprofit organizations, Vaughn is the head of an event management company called Party B Cause. Vaughn oversees planning for events such as the recent Western Winefest that benefited Bootstraps Inc., an Evergreen organization that provides scholarships to college students.

Vaughn is a former recipient of a Bootstraps scholarship and serves on the organization’s board of directors.

“We are unique in that our community is so supportive,” Vaughn says of her work with nonprofits. “I get to serve as a conduit to people’s passions.”

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.