May 11, 1998
Andrew Walgamott/staff photo
Ginny and Bob Howell
by Michelle Liu
After 16 years serving the communication needs of Woodinville, Bob and Ginny Howell have decided to sell their Pony Mailbox and Business Center in Woodinville and relax. On May 15, the Howell's will hand over the keys to new owner Diane Fulton. On October 14, 1982, the Howell's opened their business where Burger King is now. They later moved next door to Good Time Charlies, a strip club on N.E. 175th. In 1985, they moved to the present location on 177th Place.
Bob found his niche in the business world because he realized that at the time, Woodinville didn't have post office boxes, fax machines or a decent copying machine available. This business idea was still new, and it required a lot of thought to make it successful. After the first month, they paid their bills and had a whopping $2.95 profit - which Ginny got. Today, the business has been franchised in 18 states.
However, this isn't Bob's first retirement. He sold hospital equipment for 24 years, then retired, played some golf and got bored. Bob said that Ginny wanted him out of her hair so she told him, "'Go to Hawaii and Mexico; mow the lawn or play golf; get out of the kitchen.'" Ginny didn't know how drastically Bob's decision to start his own business would affect her. She said, "I wanted something for him to do, not something for me to do!" But, they were a perfect team. Ginny managed the counter and served the customers, and Bob was the business manager, answering the phones, paying the bills, and taking care of the advertising for their business.
Part of the Howell's success has been their intimate connection with customers. Bob compares their shop with an old country store. They hear about everything that's going on in their customers' lives: celebrations, sorrows, births and deaths. Long-time employee and friend Carolyn Price is happy that the Howell's are retiring. "I think it's wonderful. They served the community well; it's time for them to take a break," Price said.
Fulton realizes that she has "big shoes to fill" because the Howell's have always been courteous, caring and loyal to their customers. The Howell's haven't given much thought to what they will do once they retire, but with a contented look Bob says, "I'm going to play it a day at a time, no special plans." And Ginny said she wants to spend time with their family, paint and maybe catch a movie if they want to. After all, the last movie the Howell's had time to see was "Driving Miss Daisy."