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How Committed Are You to Customer Service? Meet Matt Fusco of The Rugged Mill

September 22, 2010

Updated June 5, 2011
During our June 2011 trip through New England, Sue and I stopped at The Rugged Mill to say hi to Matt Fusco. He was still his passionate self about serving customers. Be sure to stop in to say hi if you’re passing near North Conway, New Hampshire, or check out his website.

White Horse Ledge and Echo Lake c. 1908

New Hampshire

Every fall and spring, Sue and I make a trip to New Brunswick to visit her folks and friends. We’ve been doing this pilgrimage since moving away from the province in 2000. Our preferred route to New Brunswick is through New York States, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. We know the roads like the back of our hands, marveling at the incredible beauty of the Adirondacks and the Green and White Mountains.

One of our regular stops is North Conway, New Hampshire, home of a long list of factory outlets. I’m one of those in-and-out shopper guys, a laser focus on very quickly finding what I want and then getting the heck out. One of the few stores I visit in North Conway has been the Woolrich factory outlet store. However, when we arrived in North Conway during our stopover in mid September I discovered it had closed. Fortunately, a friendly sales clerk at the adjacent Eddy Bauer store told me to check out a store called The Rugged Mill in the heart of the town. Apparently, the former manager of the outlet store had opened a retail store which was oriented towards WoolRich products. So off we went to downtown North Conway.

The Rugged Mill is a wonderful retail store. Opened only three months when we visited in September, we were greeted by Matt Fusco, the owner and former manager of the Woolrich factory outlet at Settlers’ Green just down the road. In response to my typical inquisitive questioning, Matt explained that Woolrich was moving away from factory outlets, focusing on online retailing and through independents like himself. After I explained what I was seeking he explained his product line, some new arrivals, the sales promotions being offered that week and asked how could he help me.

After the sale of some merchandise, he thanked me sincerely and explained how his online service worked. He also asked where we were from and how often we pass through North Conway. Sue and I then asked his advice on where he would recommend we eat supper. His advice proved to be top notch.

My point in sharing this anecdote is to emphasize a few key points.

First, retail is a brutal business, with a high attrition rate during the best of times. I commend Matt’s courage for opening a clothing retail store during the tail end of the worst recession since the late thirties. Despite North Conway being a tourist magnet it too has been hit by the recession, with a number of retail factory outlets and other establishments either closing or suffering weakened sales.

Second, customer service is about a HUMAN experience, in which EACH transaction is seen as being valued and treasured. Matt obviously greatly valued my visit to his store. He’s hungry to succeed and to build a viable business. In fact, his first question when we entered was how did we hear about his new store. Contrast this to my experience at a Mobil gas station one hour earlier when I stopped in to buy some beer. When I approached the cash register, the young hulking attendant blurted out “Can I see some ID.” I’m 55, no spring chicken. I was surprised, so he added “We ID everyone.” I complied since I’ve served alcohol and have had to ID patrons; I also try to be empathetic to those who serve the public.

I laughed when I returned to the car, telling Sue about my experience. But there’s a bigger point here: Big deal about providing ID when you’re 34 years past the legal drinking age in America. It’s funny (if you have a sense of humor). The point is HOW you ask the question, in this case, ID. I’ve had to ask my peers for ID at the Cisco Ottawa Blues Fest, which adopted an “Ask everyone” policy two years ago. Yes, some guys got pissed off at me (the women loved me), but I explained why and kept a sense of humor. That always depleted their hostility.

Third, NEVER take your customers or clients for granted. The day you do is the day you begin to roll up the sidewalk to your establishment. You’re toast!

I really hope that Matt Fusco makes a successful go with his new business. When Sue and I pass through North Conway next summer I want to see his store name clearly visible along the busy downtown and the relaxed and smiling Matt greeting customers.

If you doubt what I’m saying about Matt Fusco, drop by his store in North Conway to check out his products and service. Or phone him at 603-356-0490. Or visit his website TheRuggedMill.

Be sure to share your own customer service experiences.

Do what you do so well that they will
want to see it again and bring their friends.

Walt Disney

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2010 1:38 pm

    Hi all,

    Just thought I’d let everyone know our website, is finally up! It took a while longer than we expected and it is still a work in progress. Keep in mind, if you don’t see an item from one of our vendors on our website, we can special order based on availability. Most of our products especially Woolrich are lower than by an average of 10%.

    Happy Holidays,

    Matt Fusco, Owner/Manager
    The Rugged Mill
    2633 White Mountain Highway
    North Conway, NH 03860
    (603) 356-0490

    • December 17, 2010 1:56 pm

      Hey Matt,

      That’s great that you’re online. Thanks for the update. Merry Christmas to you and your family…Jim

  2. September 28, 2010 7:11 pm

    Boy, what a great article and well written! I’m blushing as I write this! 🙂 I am so very happy I was able to satisfy Jim and Sues’ customer service expectations. It really solidifies why my wife and I decided to pursue this venture. We really do strive to be the very best at customer service. In all honesty, it all comes down to basic human relationships and lessons we learn as a child such as “treat people how you want to be treated”. My wife and I use that principle not only at The Rugged Mill but in our everyday experiences as well. (It helps when you have a 1 year old and a 3 year old to teach these principles to daily! :)).

    As for our website link…..We are still in the process of building the website, however we expect it to be ready within 2 weeks. I will follow up with you when it is ready.

    Please check us out if your in the area or on our website once it’s ready, we will certainly strive to surpass your expectation such as with Jim and Sue.

    • September 28, 2010 11:06 pm

      Matt, I’m glad we were able to return home to Ottawa, Ontario, via New Hampshire so that I could touch base with you. You have a great store, and Sue and I hope to drop in again next summer on our way Down East.

  3. September 25, 2010 1:53 am

    It seems his website’s not ready yet. One link profiles his store, and there’s his phone number for people to call. But I hope to see his site up soon. I am driving through North Conway next week on the way home to Ottawa so may stop at Matt’s store to ask him about his website.

  4. Mary Mimouna permalink
    September 24, 2010 8:14 pm

    Themy don’t seem to have any website for ordering online.


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