Hearts of gold at Gold-N-Green in Grass Valley
Special to The Union
What: Gold-N-Green Equipment Rentals
Who: Owners, John and Becky Olson
Where: 302 Railroad Ave., Grass Valley
Info: Call 530-273-0064 or visit Gold-N-Green.com.
John and Becky Olson have been trying to plan an anniversary party for their company, Gold-N-Green Equipment Rentals, which marked its 50th year last May.
But the Olsons don’t have time to organize a celebration because they’re too busy running the popular Grass Valley machine and tool rental business.
“We are so busy!” said Becky.
Gold-N-Green rents everything from lawn and garden gear to tractors and construction equipment.
“There’s not too much we don’t have,” said John.
“Everything from a weedeater to a bulldozer,” added Becky.
The Olsons took a moment from hectic schedules at their Railroad Avenue rental yard to reminisce about the decades they’ve devoted to providing tools and equipment to Nevada County.
How it all began
John started working at Gold-N-Green in 1970 for then-owner Ed Lorentzen. When Lorentzen started the business in May of 1967, it was Nevada County’s first rental yard.
“My dad rented a rototiller and it broke down,” said John. “I went back and asked the guy to teach me how to fix it.”
That was in 1970. Lorentzen took a liking to the curious, hard-working teenager and gave John a job. Over the course of many years, Lorentzen gifted the company to John piece by piece.
“Ed wasn’t married and didn’t have any children,” said John. “He passed away in 1988, and it was in his will that I inherit the rest of the company.”
By then, John had met the love of his life, Becky, and they married in 1981. When they started their family, John initially had a little trouble juggling home and work duties.
“When Becky was ready to deliver our first child, I made her drive herself to the hospital,” recalled John, “because I had to deliver a forklift to the hospital.”
“I’d been in labor all night and finally the next morning I said, “I gotta deliver a baby.’ He said, ‘Well, I gotta deliver a tractor,’” said Becky. “So I followed him down the road to the hospital, and he joined me in the car after he dropped off the forklift.”
“I’ve never heard the end of it,” said John.
Truth be told, Becky is as dedicated to the business as her husband.
“I was back at work within the week,” she said. “I was nursing behind this desk with all three of our kids. Each one was here from the time they were a week old.”
A family business
Son Jesse, 34, and daughter Christine, 32, both worked at Gold-N-Green while growing up and then embarked on other careers. Daughter Kayla, 29, currently works at Gold-N-Green with her parents.
In addition to John, Becky and Kayla, Gold-N-Green employs seven people and boasts gross annual sales of about $1.7 million.
Bookkeeping chores fall to Becky, who is most often ensconced in an upstairs office working on accounts payable and payroll.
John said he does “everything else.”
“There ain’t nothing I don’t do,” said John, only half-kidding.
“Nobody can ‘mechanic’ like this guy,” she said.
John loves tossing around the catchy mottos of the industry, such as, “Don’t buy it — rent it!” and “Need it? Rent it!” His favorite is, “Keep your friends … rent instead of borrowing!”
Exemplary customer service is just one reason for Gold-N-Green’s longevity.
“I think we’re a successful family-run business because if someone calls and has a problem with equipment, we’ll get them a new one and discount their rental,” Kayla said.
Both John and Becky said they treat their customers as family.
“It’s like walking into the TV ‘Cheers’ bar,” said Becky, referring to the 1982-1993 sitcom set in a Boston tavern. “We have our regulars that come in here and visit for hours every single day. We invite everyone to come in and have coffee and a donut. Well, we don’t have donuts every day but we do have coffee every day.”
Customer Danny Luna recalls Gold-N-Green renting equipment to him at no charge when he first opened Luna’s Landscaping in Penn Valley around 2007.
“I’ve always been loyal to Gold-N-Green because they were loyal to me when I was starting out and didn’t have much money,” Luna said.
Luna also remembers watching a TV news story about an elderly man who needed help making his property fire-safe.
“John said I could take anything off the yard that I needed,” said Luna. “He made sure we had a chipper and sharpened chain saws at no cost. I took three of my employees with me to Applegate and we cleared a fire lane for that man for free.”
“We treat customers fairly,” John said. “It’s the respect we give them and the respect we get from them in return. I’m not rigid, or overpriced. I enjoy coming to work, and we’ll do whatever it takes to make the customer happy.”
Gold-N-Green’s employees are as loyal as its customers. Robert Stice started working at Gold-N-Green in the afternoons while in high school. He was 15 then; he’s 35 now.
“My uncle worked here and I was living with him, so when I got out of school every day I’d come here and work for a few hours,” said Stice. “They (the Olsons) are like a second set of parents to me. They’re great people.”
Caring, knowledgeable employees combined with customers who appreciate value make Gold-N-Green thrive.
“We’ve had good employees and great relationships with customers and contractors,” said Stice. “They just keep coming back.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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