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Thursday, Sep 13 2012 11:00 PM

BETTY CHICCA: Olcott's was a local treasure for more than one reason

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    Betty Chicca

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Over the last few years it has become evident that the world of retail is changing: People don't shop like they use to. As customers we seem to have lost the desire for true customer service and care. I have always appreciated good customer care and it was never more present than at Olcott's, an institution here in Bakersfield for 39 years. I am proud to have been a part of their experience.

I will never forget the first time I entered Olcott's when it first opened on Stockdale Highway. I was awed by the beautiful layout, presentation and merchandise on display. Olcott's had inspired me to create beauty in my own home. I knew I was going to have a lasting relationship with Olcott's -- and an in-store charge account!

When Olcott's opened at The Marketplace, it was truly a special experience. I would eagerly await the holiday arrivals and starting in November I began buying my Christmas gifts, a little at a time, knowing that I could always come in and find what I was looking for. Even if I didn't find what I wanted, Mike Olcott and the rest of the staff would seek it out for me. (I once bought one dinner plate of a particular pattern that I liked in Lake Tahoe and Mike searched around and completed the set for me!) I would never buy anything without checking at Olcott's first because their customer service and quality were second to none.

Beyond the merchandise, the Olcott's experience was one I treasured. I remember the excitement of lining up the morning of the after-Christmas sale. Before the doors even opened, we were giddy with excitement waiting to see what bargains we would get; Olcott's kept our Christmas spirits bursting after the actual holiday. This excitement was always in me no matter what I was shopping for at Olcott's. Especially when buying a gift from a bridal registry at Olcott's, the staff made customers feel important. They would walk me through the bride's choices, let me see the products and even offer gift wrapping and shipping. Shopping for a bride was great, but registering as a bride was exceptional. When my daughter became engaged, it was a dream come true to register with her at Olcott's. We were treated as individuals and not just a numbered registrant on a computer screen. Choices were recorded by hand, carefully stored and tended to by the staff. We customers of Olcott's were personally greeted, helped and always knew we were important and valued.

Sadly, this experience -- for all of Bakersfield -- has come to an end. Olcott's closed for good on Sept. 9. In a town where locals pride themselves on American values, it is sad to see such a solid establishment close its doors. The Olcott family is an exceptional group of individuals who were dedicated to the Bakersfield consumers and I am saddened to see a great institution become another victim of our bad economy.

I will always treasure my memories of Olcott's and I am reminded of the truly wonderful store it was every time I look around my house to see the treasures I bought from Olcott's over the years.

Betty Chicca has been a happy resident of Bakersfield her entire life and is the married mother of four grown children. Community Voices is an expanded commentary of 650 to 700 words.

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