For Vale firm, there is such a thing as a free lunch

Claire Chamberlain (left) and her husband Derek, own CAPS Auto, Truck & Ag in Vale and last week they held a free barbecue for area residents to celebrate their success. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – Three years ago CAPS Auto, Truck & Ag consisted of two people with some ambition, goals and a whole lot of faith.

Back then the two employees were co-owners Derek and Claire Chamberlain. They had a plan to create, almost from scratch, a thriving local business focusing on service and accessibility.

Statistics showed opening a new business – in one of the poorest counties in Oregon, no less – is a challenge.

According to the U.S. Small Business Association about 30% of new businesses fail in the first two years.

The Chamberlains, though, relied on their faith in their plan, in their family and in God.

They worked hard and focused on customer service. Then they began to grow. They built a solid customer base.

They poured their lives into CAPS Auto, Truck & Ag. Now the Chamberlains operate two stores, one in Vale at 787 12 St. N. and a second in Ontario on Southeast 2nd Street and employ 12.

The Vale store also evolved, from offering tires to a shop where alignments and oil changes are offered.

Friday, the Chamberlains opened their doors – and their wallets – and held a community open house with free hamburgers, hot dogs, drinks and a silent auction for three alignments and a Husqvarna chainsaw.

More than 250 people filtered into an event, held behind the store in Vale, that resembled a big community barbecue.

“This is all pretty darn good,” Derek Chamberlain said as he stood near a table sprinkled with all the accessories to build a good burger.

Chamberlain said he and Claire decided the event was all about thanking the community.

“Everybody just supports us so good. So, it’s nice to be able to call out and say, come on down and get something to eat,” said Chamberlain.

Along with the food, the event offered music and booths from tire and other parts vendors set up in an arc behind a wide, square area filled with dinner tables. Perk Beverage Company in Vale delivered free coffee and the Chamberlains bought all the hamburgers and hot dogs and drinks.

“We will call this an anniversary because this is just about the time of year we opened,” said Chamberlain.

Chamberlain said he doesn’t know if there is a secret to success unless it is hard work but he is grateful for it.

“We just keep adding things to it. But I think it is all about just having good employees and trying to do the right thing,” said Chamberlain.

He said the open house event in Ontario Thursday also was successful.

“We weren’t sure what to expect since we have only been open since October. But we probably had 150 people,” said Chamberlain.

Chamberlain said he also feels like he and his wife received a lot help from above.

“We put a lot of trust in God. And, as long as we do the right thing, we will be successful,” said Chamberlain.

Claire Chamberlain said their business has been “very, very blessed.”

“It makes me really excited to see how much the community has embraced us,” she said.

Chamberlain said his business recently expanded again, buying a building in downtown Vale across from the Vale Christian Church for storage.

“We are making it. We have to grow to compete, so we have to keep pushing,” said Derek Chamberlain.

As Claire Chamberlain scanned the crowd while holding as she held her newborn baby girl, she smiled.

“It is mind blowing because everyone here is part of our lives,” said Chamberlain.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.

For the latest news, follow the Enterprise on Facebook and Twitter.

SUBSCRIBE TO UNDERWRITE VITAL REPORTING — The Malheur Enterprise increasingly relies on reader subscriptions to fund its operations. For $5 a month, you get breaking news alerts, emailed newsletters and around-the-clock access to our stories. We depend on subscribers to pay for in-depth, accurate news produced by a professional and highly trained staff. Help us grow and get better with your subscription. Sign up HERE.