By TONI ROSS
FOR THE HOMER NEWS
Redden Marine’s Kachemak Gear Shed has a new general manager. James Rushing arrived in Homer March 3 and says he’s here for a while.
Rushing, a former retail manager for Lowe’s, Best Buy and most recently an Apple store in Spokane, Wash., has been in business leadership since 1987. When he was contacted by a job recruiter for Redden Marine in late November of 2013, Rushing’s answer was “Yes!”
After being involved with large corporate management settings, he said it’s refreshing to be able to work with Kenny Quinn and Randy Chiabai, who have owned the Gear Shed together for more than 30 years.
Quinn lives in Homer and works at the Gear Shed, while Chiabai lives in Washington and works at Redden’s Bellingham store.
“Dealing directly with Kenny and Randy is, I don’t know the right words for it, it’s just an absolute refreshing change from having to deal with corporate structure in the ability to move quickly to serve the community,” Rushing said.
The Gear Shed has grown from a small Homer store to a more than 45,000-square- foot building with 38 employees. It has been at its current location since 2002, when it moved from a leased building after 19 years in the Northern Enterprises Boatyard.
Rushing said the store had reached a point where it didn’t have the structure to continue its internal growth. Part of that new growth will include employee training, scheduling to meet the needs of customers and improving consistency in communication.
“Our goal is to make sure that Homer sees a level of service from the Gear Shed that it hasn’t seen before. And that, if there’s a need in the community, if we have the ability, we’re going to fulfill that need,” he said.
The Gear Shed is one of six Redden stores in Alaska and Washington and handles accounts all the way down to Seattle, shipping out to Bush and marine communities throughout Alaska. It handles marine supplies as well as sporting goods and clothing.
Rushing said that a lot of employees knew that change needed to happen, but they weren’t sure how it was going to happen, and how it was going to impact them.
“I don’t just come in and arbitrarily change things,” he said. “I discuss what I’m doing, and why I’m doing it, so that they understand I’m asking you to do something totally different from the last 20 years — but this is why. And this is how it’s going to help us.”
As the general manager, Rushing doesn’t spend all day in his office.
“I cashier. I stock freight. I check in freight. I help with whatever needs to be done because I have always been of the mindset that I don’t have all the answers, but we all collectively do,” he said. “And we can’t all get there if we’re not all willing to play.”
Rushing added he would never ask an employee to do something that he wouldn’t do.
“I was at probably my fourth Lowe’s store, and I was cleaning the restroom one morning and one of the employees came by, and you would have thought it was a sin, or against company policy. And he said, ‘What are you doing?’ And I said, ‘The restrooms are horrible — I’m cleaning them.’ And he said ‘Why would you be doing that?’ And I said, ‘Because one day I’m going to ask you to do it. And I want you to know that all of us, at any level, should be able to do anything, and I can’t in good conscience ask you to do it if I’m not willing to do it myself.’”
Rushing said that he and his family — the youngest of his six children moved with him and his wife, Deirdre — are looking forward to the hunting and fishing in Alaska.
“When I took this job the intent was to retire from here. I don’t intend on coming in and shaking things up and leaving,” he said.
Toni Ross is a freelance writer who lives in Homer.
Redden Marine’s Kachemak Gear Shed
Owners: Kenny Quinn and Randy Chiabai
General Manager: James Rushing
Location: 3625 East End Road
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday; 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Phone/Online Orders: 1-800-478-8612 or 235-8612, or at www.reddenmarine.com.