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The store's name - TAGS - hasn't changed since it first opened in 1972. And the integrity of that name – friendly customer service, quality work with designing everything from plaques, trophies, name tags and pens - hasn't changed either.
Mike and Brenda Williams, owners of the store since 2001, make sure of that. "Every job is important," Brenda said. "People take the time to come in and place the order. It's important to them. It's important to us."
TAGS stands for Trophies, Awards, Gifts and Specialties, and TAGS is committed to customer satisfaction in every area of the business. That was obvious on a warm summer evening not long ago. Their store had already been closed for a couple of hours and as Brenda was walking off the tennis court her phone rang. It was a customer, nearly frantic about picking up a gift.
"A mother had a gift for Father's Day and wanted to know if they could come and get it," Brenda said. Rather than telling the mother to come the next morning, Brenda told her to swing by the store later that night. "We have an emergency number and that's what it's for," Brenda said. "People call to say they have to get something. We'll help them."
From the start, TAGS Awards and Specialties has been on the cutting edge. It was one of the first stores in the country to use computerized engraving in the late 1970s. It was later one of the first in the country in the late 1980s to use laser engraving equipment.
Today, it is one of the largest and most successful retail awards stores in the United States. It gets orders from across the country and the production area is expansive.
Brenda said the store's reputation is a reflection of its staff.
"They've all been here a really long time," Brenda said. "That speaks well for the sort of business we have. They like working here and they like the product." And they like the customers.
"That's what I like," Brenda said. "I see the same customers come in and say they want to work with Patty or Aileen. That's what's nice about a local business. You get to know the customers and they get to know you."
In 1993, Mike and Brenda moved to Olympia and opened a marketing business, The Williams Group. Prior to that, Mike worked in sports marketing in Los Angeles, working for big-name clients like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Clippers and the Santa Anita Race Track.
Brenda had been a manager in Bullock's Department Store's head office, managing merchandise purchasing.
In 2001, the Williams' bought TAGS from Carl Salstrom, the second owner of the business. Salstrom purchased the store in 1985 from Orville and Bernice Armstrong. Orville, who was at one time the President of the national awards association (ARA), used to drop by the store and chat with Brenda about how things were when he owned the store. "Orville like to poke around and see how we were doing," Brenda said. "The history is fun. It's nice. His wife had a beauty shop next door. When we bought it, the beauty chairs were downstairs." That building is now used for the advertising specialties team and additional production space.
Brenda said attention to quality and service at TAGS is important. People are having to think very hard on how they're going to spend their money," Brenda said. "You want to make sure you're giving them something of good value and give them good customer service with that."
The store engraves the names of an honored athlete onto the sports trophies. They also engrave acrylic awards that customers can help design for any occasion, ranging from weddings, graduations and births. TAGS also provides heavy bronze plaques often used to commemorate major construction projects. But the list goes on and on. If a customer wants something personalized, TAGS is usually the place to get it done.
The store's top priorities are quality and friendly customer service. "People always come in at the last minute and they say they need it now," Brenda said. "Usually it takes a week, but it happens. People need things tomorrow. We say let's find something for you. We can do it."