A bright banner welcomes Norfolk’s guests to the annual event.
About 36 years ago, Carolyn and Glen Coulter – a year into their fresh marriage — borrowed $1,000 from an invested life insurance policy to buy a former laundromat.
“I got out of college to become a teacher, but I love sales. Glen was going to fix things on the side, mowers,” said Carolyn Coulter. “I said to him, ’If you can fix them, I can sell them.’ We bought a building in Norfolk. It was the Norfolk Laundromat. The owner was selling and Glen said, ’I can use a building.’ That’s the long and short of it.
“Crazy, isn’t it?” continued the co-owner of Norfolk Power Equipment on the Norfolk/Wrentham line. “We made our sign out of the old laundromat sign. We only had to change a few letters. We were in that building for 20 years. We’ve been married 37 years and in business for 36. We’ve sat in the same office for 36 years and we still like each other.”
The owners of Norfolk Power Equipment — Glen, Carolyn, son Brian and daughter Stacey — are thankful. So grateful for the last four decades of success, they thank their loyal customers with an annual Customer Appreciation Open House, which took place this year on March 25 and 26 at their showroom facility, which has been Norfolk Power Equipment’s home since 1998 (they still have the old building).
Hard-working heavy iron workers filled the 20,000-sq. ft. headquarters set on five acres. Special deals were offered on lawn mowers, excavators and backhoes from Touro, Kubota, Terex, Stihl and many others.
But the day was more about giving back to those customers who have spent so much of their hard-earned money at Norfolk over the decades.
As Carolyn Coulter said, the business grew, Norfolk’s reputation grew and, “the children grew. I only have two stores because I only have two kids.”
She was referring to Norfolk’s other location in Burrillville, R.I., which opened in 2003, and to the fact that she literally raised her children in Norfolk’s store showrooms.
“We actually had a playpen for them in the shop. I wanted them to go work somewhere else, but they literally grew up in the business,” said Coulter. “They loved it. Stacey graduated from Bryant University in finance and legal work. Brian graduated as an automotive technician. Stacey runs the office, financial payables. Brian is in sales and service. He ran the Rhode Island store and worked in the larger, construction end. Brian is really an excellent service person. He knows all aspects of sales and service. We are very lucky to have two kids who are interested in what Glen and I were interested in.”
Their Customer Appreciation Day goes back to when they first opened the former Laundromat.
“Today, it is an appreciation for all the contractors and municipalities who purchase from us throughout the year,” said Coulter. “Different manufacturers and equipment is sold here, and their representatives are on hand at the event to answer questions. It’s not as much an Open House as much as an Appreciation Weekend.”
Norfolk Power boasts some 46 employees now, many of whom have been part of their team for more than 20 years.
“When you are part of a family business, you take care of the people who have been with you all those years,” added Coulter. “We have great employees.”
She lauded David Hoyle, who has been at Norfolk for 22 years; Steve Oliva for 20; General Manager Fred Noonan, for 20-plus-years, and Roger Martin, “who was in our wedding. These people have been with us since day one.”
At the two-day event was special sales pricing that customers couldn’t get on any other day. “These are longtime customers,” said Coulter. “A second generation of some families; families shopping here since we first opened up.”
Coulter and her husband Glen looked over their acreage, with the yard full of equipment, their parts and service and repair departments; their warehouses. They saw Stacey darting around from event to event, table to table, helping to raise funds for breast cancer, signing up people for free raffle tickets for prizes, setting up the food for the guests. They beamed.
“I remember going on the road with our first line of snow blowers, from town to town with two kids in the playpen in the car,” said Coulter. “It worked and I sold everything else. It fostered customers from all over this area. Today, you couldn’t do that.”
Stacey looked at Carolyn, setting up lunch for the guests and smiled.
“I love machines. I cannot imagine my life without being a part of this,” she said. “I love being able to help my parents and my brother and to bring my kids here. I have three children and I have them here a lot. There are good morals taught here. My son’s favorite colors are orange and black.”
Her father, Glen, ever the businessman, is quietly pensive, making sure that every guest has the answers and prices they seek. He also is very appreciative over this special weekend.
“The business has far exceeded our expectations,” he said, nodding to his wife and partner of 37 years. “That’s for sure.”
Unlike the women, who point to the family, Glen points to the line he sells.
“The best thing that happened was getting the Kubota line in here in 1979. Compact excavators, track loaders and now, they have the largest cab in the market,” said Glen Coulter.
“I’d like to personally thank all our loyal customers who continue to be here,” said his wife. “This is always open to the public and we invited almost 3,000 of our clients over the years.”
“I thank my customers every day,” added her husband. “Without them, we’re nobody.”
It’s important,” said Carolyn. “This is like our third child.”
Norfolk Power Equipment has two locations: 5 Cushing Drive on the Norfolk/Wrentham, Mass. line and at 846 Bronco Highway in Burrillville, R.I.