Jeff and Paula Messer use teamwork to tackle their daily tasks and meet their customer’s needs at Messer’s 5th Street Electric & Supply in Grayson.
“Some people don’t realize we are open to the public,” Paula said, explaining she takes care of the face-to-face business with contractors, electricians and builders while her master-electrician husband handles the hands-on jobs. “Jeff does not do the store at all. I know more about the store.”
The Carter City couple met when Paula rented an apartment from Jeff’s sister and he showed up to do some repair work.
“I cooked hot wings for him. The rest is history,” she said with a chuckle, adding they’ve been together nearly 13 years now.
She shakes her head as she recalls her early days behind the counter at Messer’s 5th Street Electric and notes she left a job she loved at McCloud Eye Care in Grayson and jumped into a field she had little knowledge about at that time.
“I got overwhelmed, of course, There’s thousands of parts in here,” she said, immediately adding she was blessed to have Diane Porter there every day for the first six months to teach her all about the inventory and more. Porter and her husband, Larry, sold the shop to the Messers in 2013 after operating the business themselves for about 18 years.
“Diane still helps when I need a day off or a vacation,” she said.
She also has four sisters and a cousin who are “dependable … a big help to me – especially when it comes to inventory.”
At one point, Jeff pointed out the business would benefit from having an in-house contractor and suggested Paula study for that exam and license. “He just didn’t want to take another test,” she joked.
Messer’s 5th Street Electric caters to small commercial contractors, builders and electricians with both tools and resources. “Any electrical part – we’ve got everything you need to wire a house,” she said. Wire is probably their most in-demand product, but they also stock “everything else” including AEP and RECC approved “services” which Jeff prepares ahead so customers can basically “put it on a pole.”
They also maintain a huge selection of the tools preferred by professionals.
“We carry Klein Tools. We started out with a partial rack and now we have more gools than most larger stores.”
Paula said she still enjoys watching her husband on the job, particularly when he is “trouble shooting” or even diagnosing a customer’s challenges by telephone. The two of them, along with help from a few other family members, essentially divide the daily tasks, she said.
“You don’t own your business. Your business owns you,” she said, acknowledging they each dedicate many extra hours to the business.
“Jeff works less hours than I do. He says he’s older than me – he’s been almost 60 for 10 years now,” she said with a big laugh.
Their shop is located near Grayson’s heavily traveled Carol Malone Boulevard, although the place is almost hiding in plain sight. Paula said the recent demolition of a small house on the corner has helped with that, as has the decision to open 5th Street to two-way traffic.
“I still hear people say ‘I didn’t know this place was here.’ We had three say that this week,” she said.
When they aren’t on the job, Jeff and Paula Messer enjoy hunting and fishing, with musky being their favorite fish to cast for. Jeff currently has bragging rights for the biggest catch “but I’ve got him beat on the deer,” she said, grinning. They also enjoy hunting small game including rabbit and turkey.
Back at the shop, Paula said she would like to work with more local business owners, and meet some of the outside contractors who are called in for local jobs.
“I wish they would get more local guys to work,” she said.
For more information about Messer’s 5th Street Electric & Supply visit the shop at 306 5th Street, Grayson or call 606-474-7418 or 606-356-2420.
Story and Photos by TIM PRESTON
Carter County Post