The front of Liberal Office Machines at its current location at 1015 N. Kansas. The place had a couple other locations before taking up residence at its current spot. L&T photos/Elly Grimm
Wells reflects on 53 years in business this Labor Day
By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
There are many businesses in Liberal that have been a part of the city for many years, and one of them is Liberal Office Machines, having been in town for the past 53 years.
Liberal Office Machines opened on April 3, 1961 at 1011 N. Kansas Ave. by Larry Wells and his brother W.D. Wells. The business moved to 909 N. Kansas Ave. in 1984 and then moved to its location at 1015 N. Kansas Ave., its current location.
“Personnel has changed but outside of that, we’ve done the same thing we’ve been doing practically the entire time,” Wells said. “We stared out as a machine company, and we needed a bit more when we went around the country so we went into the office supply furniture and fixture business.”
Wells began working in the office machine business in 1949, and he and his brothers had worked for a similar company at its locations in Guymon, Okla., and Amarillo, Texas, and the experience there is what inspired them to open their own business.
“Then we had a brother who was killed in a car wreck, and he was working with another brother in Amarillo. So, due to his death, it threw all of us,” Wells said. “But that put us together due to his death, and we got to talking about going on our own so that’s how we got started. After you get into a business, you kind of like it and then, of course, your next dream is to get on your own, right?”
When Liberal Office Machines primarily started, it was a machine company selling office machines, and it also sold machine supplies like ribbons and paper and similar supplies. The company then got into the supply business and the furniture business and the fixture business, which is what the company’s inventory consists of now.
Today, Liberal Office Machines deals within about a 100-mile radius of Liberal and in the Oklahoma Panhandle. It also deals in places like Perryton, Texas, Meade, Sublette, Satanta, Garden City, Moscow, Hugoton, Elkhart, Ulysses and Syracuse. At one time, Wells said, he covered 28 counties in Southwest Kansas, but as time went on, he found did not have time to get around to all of them so he ended up having to cut his territory down.
Wells’ approach to his business is extremely simple – treat the customer as you would like to be treated. It is this approach, Wells said, which has kept him in business for so long. Working with the people and customers is, in fact, Wells’ favorite thing about running his business.
“I have a slogan, ‘Buy where service is more than a catch word,’” he said. “I always wanted to treat people the way I wanted to be treated and because of that, I’ve got a lot of customers who have been with me for years and years. It’s why we’ve been successful at this business.”
Looking to the future, Wells sees not only his business expanding but the City of Liberal as well. He also gave some advice to fellow entrepreneurs about to start their own businesses.
“To start a business, you have to really figure out what you’re going to do and how long it will take you to do it, because it won’t happen overnight,” Wells said.