EVERETT — In 1976, Wendy Olmstead’s father, Don Van Trojen, sold the family wheels to help finance his first store near Hewitt Avenue and Marine View Drive.
“It was the first decent pickup truck we had and he had to sell it to pay the lease,” Olmstead recalled.
She was 9 at the time. Her sister, Cindy, was 11.
Tough decision, but it paid off in the long run, Olmstead said.
Since then, Sound Safety Products and its retail division — the more familiar Work n’ More — have become a regional chain with five locations.
“We’re a safety equipment company, but we’re also Work n’ More,” Olmstead said.
The retail business accounts for about 60 percent of sales.
In the market for a pair of steel-toe boots, a hard hat or a pair of heavy-duty jeans that feel as if they weigh two pounds? (If you’ve ever yearned for an exoskeleton, those jeans could pass muster.)
“We have a lot of merchandise,” Olmstead said. “We stack it high and deep.”
The store outfits engineers, re-bar hangers, landscapers, contractors, public works employees — just about anyone who toils outside.
In the mid-1960s, Van Trojen gained experience selling safety shoes and equipment at Weyerhaeuser, Simpson Timber, Boeing and Scott Paper.
Eventually, he turned his expertise into Sound Safety Products and the first location on Hewitt Avenue in Everett.
In the early 1980s, he built the company’s flagship store at 3602 Broadway, where it stands today.
Under Van Trojen’s watch, the Everett “mother ship” was joined by two additional retail outlets, in Tukwila and Lynnwood.
In 2011, Olmstead and her sister, Cindy Calvert, bought the family business from their dad.
That year they opened a store in Bellevue. Last month they christened a new Arlington Work n’ More location.
Olmstead and Calvert graduated from Cascade High School in Everett, and then the University of Washington, both earning undergraduate degrees in business.
And then the sisters went their separate ways.
Calvert went into the family business, where she’d worked since her teens. She’s now president of the company.
Olmstead went off and did her own thing for several years, including selling high-end office furniture in Seattle and women’s apparel.
“I have great taste when it comes to helping people put together uniforms,” Olmstead volunteered.
Work n’ More is the only place Calvert has ever worked.
“She was my right arm for 20 years,” said Van Trojen, now retired.“Wendy joined us as an owner in 2011,” he said.
“Cindy has the management side of things and Wendy has the sales side,” said Van Trojen, who retains a two-percent interest in the company.
“I’m the swing-vote,” he said, laughing. “So far, I’ve not been called in to intervene. My daughters are growing the business and growing it marvelously. I couldn’t be prouder.”
Sound Safety and Work n’ More employ nearly 50 people, including Calvert’s husband and daughter, and Olmstead’s husband.
“I’m just glad we’re able to employ so many people,” said Olmstead, the company’s vice president.
“We’re a small business, but we’re not small potatoes,” she said.
Janice Podsada; email@example.com’ 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods