The Hardware Man who loves his customers

Anselmo Valdez, for 65 years and counting, lives by these words: ‘Love your customers.’
Anselmo, daughter Maxine
Anselmo (Al) Valdez with his daughter Maxine Valdez-Ortiz.

Catching up with Anselmo Valdez is not easy. He doesn’t own a computer and he keeps very busy running his store – even after 65 years – and he likes it that way.

“My daughter is my email and internet,” said Valdez over the phone to this HBSD editor.

When asked to reflect on his six decades in hardware, the 87-year-old owner of Gambles Valdez Enterprises ­– a Do it Best dealer in Las Vegas, New Mexico (not Nevada) – asked if I could call him back on a late Saturday afternoon, “probably the only time I might be free,” the owner said.

Smiling, the phone was hung up, and my hand wrote this note, simply: “Call Mr. Valdez Sat. 3 p.m.”

Saturday 3 p.m.

Ring-ring.   Hello?   Can I talk with Mr. Valdez?   One moment.

At first, he wasn’t available. The team member who answered the phone at Gambles said he – what else ­– was helping a customer find an item and would be right with me.

Voices talked back and forth in the background, and laughs came and went, then warm goodbyes.

He had a few minutes to talk with me. And what a great conversation it was.

Gambles is lots of things, he said, not just hardware. “We’re a combination deal of a store – hardware, appliances, furniture and housewares,” Valdez said. “We’re a home furnishing store.”

He has six team members working for him and he has his daughter Maxine Valdez-Ortiz, “she’s the VP,” he said. “She’s my everything, sometimes my eyes and ears, and she’s my email and internet.”

But he is always working at his store and always busy. “I’d have to have a hundred hands to help all my customers after 65 years. I love my customers.”

Valdez pauses over the phone to greet someone in his store then comes right back, giving an answer to a question about what’s the popular seller right now?

It’s not one single thing but, he said, “right now appliances are the hottest sellers.”

How did you get started?

“I was a grocery store worker since I was nine years old. Then after serving in the U.S. Navy from 1952-55 in Korea, I came back and was working as a butcher for a year when a lady told me to go check out working at Gambles,” he paused again to acknowledge a customer.

“So, in September 1956, I walked in with my suit on and got the job as a credit manager, which I worked for five years, then worked up to managing the store and in 1983 bought it out,” he said.

Anselmo, Maxine, Tony
From left: Anselmo, Maxine, and 50-year employee Tony Apodaca.

He took a break from our phone call and his daughter Maxine Valdez-Ortiz took the phone and said, “He’s right, I’m his computer, I’m his legs,” we laughed.

“Everything I have learned, I’ve learned from him. He’s still a hard worker. Never slows down.”

The town of Las Vegas, New Mexico, has a population of 14,000, and it might seem like her father knows everyone.

“He’s old school,” said Valdez-Ortiz, “he helps all.”

Anselmo, or Al to most folks, comes back on the phone one more time briefly.

Will you retire? My question is posed with a grin, as I almost know the answer.

“I don’t know what retirement is, maybe going home at 2 p.m. is retirement,” he said with a chuckle.

Before I could ask one more thing he broke in and said suddenly, “A couple came in the other day from California; they wanted to see what a 65-years-in-the business hardware man looks like!”

 Then: “He looks like me!”  We both cracked up.

Can you pass along any advice?

“Yes,” he said, and taking a big inhale: “Love what you’re doing. Give them the best advice you possibly can. Advise them, that’s what I’ve always done.”

Before saying goodbye, he ended our Saturday afternoon phone call with this: “Love your customers.”