Knudsons knew customer service

  • By Mike Benbow Herald Columnist
  • Sunday, October 18, 2009 9:24pm
  • BusinessEverett

Today I’m going to share a tip, but it’s likely too late to do you much good.

Inside Knudson’s Surgical Appliance &Hospital Equipment at the east end of Everett’s Hewitt Avenue is a postal substation where you can avoid the always busy and not always polite downtown post office.

Everett historian Larry O’Donnell calls the station operated by Herb and Terri Knudson “one of Everett’s best-kept secrets.”

Dick Padovan, who had an office above the business for many years, still uses it even though he’s retired. “They’re great people, and it really was an advantage in that part of town,” he said. “You could go there and not have to stand in line for 25 minutes.”

Everett postal substation No. 2, as well as the surgical equipment business, will close its doors at the end of the month.

It’s the end of an era.

For more than 100 years, there’s been a Herb Knudson in a medical-related business in Everett. The original Herb, Herb’s father and Terri’s grandfather, started working at Everett’s City Drug at the age of 12 in 1903. He later bought his own pharmacy, the Riverside, and eventually bought City Drug.

Herb took over from his father, selling the drugstore in 1976 but keeping the hospital equipment business that had been added to the store. It’s at 2909 Hewitt Ave.

Herb Knudson, now in his 90s, still goes to work every day, running the business with Terri.

“It’s a heartbreak,” he said of closing a business he loves. “But it’s past my time.”

Herb Knudson said his business is a bit of a dinosaur, eclipsed now by large corporations that offer medical equipment and an array of services.

“In this particular business, we’re the last of it,” he said. “We’re the only ones.”

He said insurance companies and Medicare set most of the prices he can charge these days, and it isn’t enough. “They have their own prices, and a lot of times it’s below our costs,” he said.

Both Knudsons say they’ll miss their customers.

Terri Knudson said many became friends.

“We tried to keep the old style,” she said. “We tried to tell people what they should be using and why. If we didn’t have something, we’d call around and find it.”

For many years, the business was on call with doctors and hospitals to come and help fit people with braces and other equipment needed after an injury or a surgical procedure.

“Whenever they needed us, we were available,” she said. “We were on call 24-7.”

The good service is what Padovan remembers.

“I could always go there and find what I needed,” he said. “If they didn’t have it, they’d get it.”

Most of the items at the store have been sold. Last week, they were moving out some of the fixtures. But there still was the old oak-trimmed cash register with the giant keys that Herb’s dad purchased in 1921.

It wasn’t just for show. The Knudson’s still use it. “We still count back change,” Terri Knudson said.

There was also the 1901 scale and a giant safe from the early 1900s installed with an 1885 anti-dynamite device.

Herb Knudson said that a lot of people have come through the business over the years, many to use the postal station. He said City Drug and the Riverside, Everett substations 1 and 2, were among the oldest in the West.

Herb Knudson said he’s ready to retire, maybe do some gardening. But he said he will miss the people. Terri Knudson agreed.

“People are the most important thing,” she said.

Mike Benbow: 425-339-3459;

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