UPS Store in Grass Valley doubling in size
Special to The Union
The UPS Store
Dave Elliott, Owner
111 Bank St., Grass Valley
8 AM - 6 PM Monday-Friday
9 AM - 5 PM Saturday
Dave Elliott will ship just about anything.
But the owner of Grass Valley’s UPS Store admitted expensive and fragile items make him nervous.
“I’ve shipped a $35,000 painting. There was a $12,000 Buddha statue, and a $6,000 Tibetan prayer wheel,” Elliott recalled. “We don’t ship live animals, although there were a couple of lizards — chameleons — that we agreed to ship. But we don’t ship dogs and cats.”
In addition to pets, Elliott said he has drawn the line at human remains.
“A guy wanted to ship his sister’s ashes and I said I couldn’t. How to do you insure something like that? Theoretically, if the statue or prayer wheel were damaged or lost, they could be replaced, even though it would be very expensive. But someone’s ashes? There would be no way to replace them if something happened to them.”
In late afternoon, boxes ready to be shipped are stacked floor to ceiling in the back office of the UPS Store. That’s why the business is doubling in size from 1,400 to 2,800 square feet. The $70,000 expansion and remodeling project is expected to be finished at the end of June.
“I really need the space,” Elliott said simply.
The business, one of 4,500 UPS franchise stores in the United States, has seven full-time employees and five part-time workers. The store ships an average of 150 packages per day; 20 packaged by store staff and the remainder packaged by customers. Up to 30 boxes per day are received at the store and delivered to customers, many of whom have private mailboxes at the store.
“We’ve all heard stories about thieves following around delivery trucks and doing their ‘Christmas shopping,’” laughed Elliott. “Packages can be stolen if they’re just dropped off on a porch. We offer security here. Another advantage of our store is customers can receive packages shipped via Fed Ex, UPS, or DHL — not just packages shipped through the post office.”
The average mailbox at the UPS Store costs $12 month for a one-year contract, slightly more per month for shorter contracts. There are 180 small, 48 medium, and 16 large mailboxes.
“I may put in 30 more because of the demand,” he projected, adding that interest in mailboxes at the UPS store increases when mailboxes at the downtown post office are sold out.
The UPS Store sells all manner of business supplies, stamps and greeting cards, laminates just about anything, snaps passport photos, offers secure document shredding services, and sends and receives faxes. There is a computer in the lobby for customers’ use.
Elliott’s next mission is to expand the store’s printing business.
“We’re buying an HP wide-format copier-printer that will allow us to produce banners and posters up to 45 inches wide,” he said.
The new printer will supplement two color production printers and a black and white copier/printer currently in use.
Store staff can notarize documents, and even take customers’ fingerprints.
“We offer live scan provider fingerprinting and don’t require an appointment. Every staff member is certified to roll fingerprints,” he said, rapidly reciting other services and products. “We do graphic design for clients. We’ll print someone else’s designs. We can receive an email with a document someone needs to sign, then scan it and send it on.”
Elliott said he wants his business to be known for its customer service. If a line forms at the counter, he’s trained staff to stop whatever else they’re doing and wait on clients.
“Service is what we do. At some businesses, if you show them a package that isn’t sealed just right, they point to the wall and say, ‘Go buy some tape.’ I’m scandalized by that. Someone shows us that same package and we tape it properly for them. We don’t nickel and dime our customers.”
When it comes to tape, Elliott buys nothing but the best.
“We only use ‘quiet tape’ here. It doesn’t screech when you pull it off the roll. It’s twice as expensive as other tape. Let me put it this way: I realize my idiosyncrasies,” he smiled.
The store spends several hundred dollars on that special tape each month, and goes through five or six 16-cubic-feet bags of Styrofoam peanuts each week. A lot of those supplies service the account of Russell Martin, owner of Centerville Auto Repair in Grass Valley. He spends $3,000 to $4,000 at the UPS Store each month shipping auto parts.
“They’re the best in the county. I don’t have the manpower to have someone at my company package everything,” said Martin, “so they pack everything for me. It’s the best chance of having something arrive in one piece. And I don’t have to store packaging material and boxes.”
The UPS Store is one of the ground-floor tenants of the Gold Miners Inn, which helped make the store’s expansion possible by offering it space formerly occupied by Bear River Pasta.
“We have a business center here in the hotel, and our guests are excited to have even more options with the expansion of the UPS Store in the same building,” said Gold Miners Inn General Manager Sean Gilleran.
UPS Store clerks are happy the business is thriving and Elliott is successful.
“Dave is the best boss I’ve ever had,” praised clerk Kayla Eiermann. “He works hard and he’s fair.”
Before becoming a shipping mogul, Elliott was co-owner of an environmental microanalysis laboratory in Woodland that specialized in pesticide residue testing. He and his business partner sold the lab in 2012, because “We found a buyer willing to pay cash for it, and I was tired of the commute.”
He’d been commuting to Woodland from Grass Valley for more than a decade, after he married in 1999 and moved to Nevada County.
“My plan was to get into the wine business, but I couldn’t find a winery I wanted to buy. One night I saw an ad offering this business for sale. My plan was to buy it, build it up for five years, then sit back and cash checks,” he quipped. “This expansion screwed up that timeline because I’ve basically doubled the rent. It’s definitely going to delay retirement a couple of years.”
Before he was allowed to purchase the franchise three years ago, UPS required Elliott to take four weeks of training.
“It’s fun because it’s a business I can tweak the way I want, other than dictations of the ‘mother ship,’” he said. “Someone from UPS visits four times a year and as long as I’m not doing something too obnoxious, they let me do what I want.”
Elliott definitely has his own way of doing things. For example, he once spent the better part of a week making a sturdy plywood freight crate that was used to ship a grandfather clock. He did the construction work in the front lobby of the store.
“There’s no better way to advertise you do something than doing it in front of everyone,” said Elliott.
He said he has learned other tricks of the trade.
“Everything I ship is plastered with “Fragile” stickers, even if it’s not fragile. That way customers see I did my part. And maybe the people who are in a position to destroy a package, like forklift operators, won’t destroy it.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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